Make the change from plastic to cloth bags: A guide for store owners

Are you the owner of a store? Would you like to initiate a change from giving out free plastic bags to your clients to inviting them to bring their own cloth bags to your store, Are you anxious about making this shift? Are you worried about losing your clients or making them unhappy?

Here are some ways to make the change step by step:

1. Start with information. Tell your clients about your plan to make this change. And tell them why you want to do this. Put up posters with images about the environmental problems caused by plastic. Give them some time to prepare for the change.

2. Start charging for plastic bags. For a fixed period, even while you do give out plastic bags, talk to people and warn them that it will stop soon. Charging for a plastic bag will reinforce the message that you are serious about doing this.

3. Offer a free alternative. Newspaper bags are the cheapest free alternative available at present. They will not cost you much more than what you may be paying for the plastic bags you give out. However, you will have to ensure you can find a regular supplier. Also, newspaper bags are not as strong as plastic and it would be good to warn clients about this, encouraging them to switch to cloth.

4. Start offering a few different qualities of cloth bags at your store – you can provide a range of cloth bags – from cheap affordable ones to strong and more durable ones that may cost more but will last longer.

5. If there is a group that makes cloth bags to help dispriveleged sections of the society,share these stories with your clients to inspire them.

6. Anticipate their concerns. Clients are usually worried about a few things. Paying more money, changing their habits, being denied something they want, spending more time than they have. Fortunately the last three are temporary and can be changed. The first concern is a genuine concern that you will have to answer effectively.

7. Show them the value of a cloth bag. Find creative ways of explaining to your clients that the money they pay for a cloth bag, really does go a long way. For eg. compare the cost of a cloth bag with something else that routinely pay for without much thought.

8. Create a system that allows people to carry their own bag into your store.Most malls these days do not make it easy for people to bring their own bags for security reasons. Work out a system which encourages people rather than discourages them.

9. Offer an incentive or a reward for those who do take the effort to make the change. You may create a system of winning points or offering a discount for those clients who regularly bring their own bags.

10. Create a deposit system. Ask clients to pay for five bags up front. Every time they forget a bag, they will recieve one more from you until they run out of their five bag deposit. Gradually they will start remembering to bring their own bags.

11. Make bags that advertise your green efforts. Create cloth bags that help you spread the message to others about your campaign to stop using plastic bags.

12. Remember that you clients are coming to you for everything you have to offer. Not just for a plastic bag.

Countries like Australia have successfully stopped the use of plastic carry bags. We can do it too!!!