“Please stop using plastic bags.” We hear this all the time from our customers. But it isn’t so easy. As a company that sells fresh fruit and vegetables, we can’t use paper bags for produce items such as lettuce. We can transition to compostable bags, but the main issue is cost. Paper and compostable bags cost 3-4 times more than plastic. If we switched over from single-use plastic, we’d need to charge our customers more.
Field Goods is a small company that delivers local produce and artisan food products to people at their workplace and community locations. We pride ourselves on keeping prices low for customers and integrating sustainability in everything we do.
What is a small company to do? We asked our customers what they thought with a survey, asking them how much they would be willing to spend per order to switch to compostable bags. Here are the results:
At $0.15, 75% would be happy to pay.
At $0.25, 67% would be happy to pay.
At $0.45, 44% would be happy to pay.
So now what? Even at just $0.15 cents per order, which would increase the average cost per order just ½ of 1 percent, 25% of our customer didn’t like the idea. Keep in mind, Field Goods customers order from us because they want farm fresh food. We even ask them to return the bags their orders are delivered in and they do. In short, our customers rate super high on the “care about the environment” scale. Imagine if we were a grocery store.
We also asked for comments. They ranged from “I’d pay $1.00 extra. I love the idea!” to “I don’t want to pay anything because I already compost.” The solution to the compostable bag dilemma came as a suggestion from a customer: give people a donation option like our Food Pantry Donation Program, where folks purchase fresh quality food at our cost and we deliver it to the food pantry.
Darn great idea! Now Field Goods customers can choose to donate $0.15 or more with each order to the Compostable Bag Fund. With $0.15 we can swap 3 single-use plastic bags for compostable bags. Customers can return the compostable bags to us and we will send them to a commercial composter. This is very important because compostable bags will not compost in most backyard compost systems.
Maybe our solution will inspire others.