Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Get Your Green On at Whole Foods Market

By Anna Madrona, March 17, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Anna Madrona

Hey! You with the glittery shamrock-bobble headband and the “Kiss Me I’m Irish” button! You’re probably wearing a green shirt, right? And maybe planning a lovely meal of corned beef and cabbage washed down with green beer?

Over here at Whole Foods Market today we’ll also be busy getting our green on because, well, we don’t want to get pinched — and because we’re gearing up for Earth Month in April. Actually, we work hard to get our green on every day of the year; after all, it’s one of our Core Values.

Here are just a few ways we care for the environment in many of our stores:

  • Recycling drop-off bins for customers: most of our stores have partnerships with Cork Re-Harvest (which upcycles wine corks) and Gimme 5 (which upcycles #5 plastics in the form of yogurt cups and Brita water filters); many stores also accept your plastic bags from other retailers


  • Rebates for BYOB: when you bring your own bags, we’ll rebate up to 10 cents each at the register to reward you for your resource-thrifty behavior


  • Inexpensive reusable carrier bags: our two sizes of Better Bags are made from recycled materials, both sizes cost less than a buck and will likely last for more than 250 individual shopping trips with normal wear; if they do wear out, you can return them to a Whole Foods Market


  • FSC-certified 100% recycled paper bags: we were the first retailer to carry Forest Stewardship Council-certified 100% recycled paper bags (for when you forget your reusable bags)


  • Recycling stations in food service areas: most of our stores have eating areas and we try to make it easy for you to help us recycle and compost everything possible (that is, according to local ordinances and waste diversion infrastructure)


  • Compostable food containers: most of our salad bar containers are made from natural fibers obtained from bulrush (cattails), an abundant renewable resource that is harvested annually in the wild


  • Recycled and compostable pizza boxes: many of our stores offer hearth-baked pizzas; in most locations we offer the take-out pies in a Greenbox, an innovative container that can be folded into a smaller size as you eat part of the pizza—you can even make serving dishes out of it


  • Bicycle racks: we make it easy for muscle-powered cyclists to eat and shop with us


  • Electric vehicle recharge stations: many of our new stores and some of the older ones, like our flagship Lamar store, have free recharge stations for electric cars


  • Food donations: the vast majority of our stores donate usable food items to food banks and charitable organizations (following local health department regulations, of course); many stores hold non-perishable food drives for food banks throughout the year


  • Store composting: in those communities that have a commercial composting infrastructure in place, we make sure our biologicals end up there instead of the landfill; in some areas that lack composting facilities, we even backhaul the compost to our distribution centers so that we don’t have to send this valuable resource to a landfill


  • Beer and wine: we have environmentally friendly options at our in-store watering holes such as keg wines that allow us to significantly reduce packaging and waste and reusable growlers (64-oz. or 32-oz. glass jugs) for transporting the draft beer we carry at many of our stores

And while we haven’t found ideal solutions yet for some items that remain disposable (cutlery, for example) we’re continually working on finding better solutions for serving ware and packaging.

Besides wearing your green t-shirt, how do you get your green on at home? Have you dropped off plastic bags, yogurt cups or corks at Whole Foods Market before?  Participated in an electronics or canned-food drive? Used our bike racks, electric-vehicle recharge station or rented a car2go at a store?

What else would you like to see us do in service to the environment?




debbie T says ...
I buy tubs of yogurt, so I reuse them to store homemade stocks in the freezer. I have a stack of batteries on my desk, waiting to bring them to my local WF. It's great that I have a place to bring them! I also just recently brought some old RX pills from my parents' to a special kiosk at the local police station. Some people don't realize that dropping old RX meds into the trash or down the toilet is environmentally toxic! :)
03/17/2012 9:02:19 AM CDT
Robert Sharp says ...
- Make sure all butcher and deli counter folks know how to tare their scales, make sure their scales can tare more than one pound, and make sure they are told they are to follow a customer's requests when weighing meats. We don't want them to use a little slip of paper or any other trash at any point in the process; we want them to dump stuff directly into our jars. Sometimes they'll do it, sometimes they ignore repeated requests. I personally would like to be able to sign a waiver or something to allow them to handle our foods with their bare hands and avoid the trashed gloves. After all, I have to assume that working where they do they would be washing their hands quite often. - Stop making us use a sticker for meats, cheeses, and breads. Just like we do with bulk bin items, we can write a tare weight and a PLU on our jars. - Carry yeast in a jar. I haven't looked recently, but last I checked there was only yeast in little envelopes that are foil-lined and can't be recycled. - Try to offer deli counter cheeses not wrapped in plastic. I'm not sure what that looks like, but we want that cut and put directly in our jars as well. - We'd like to see some things like bulk dry pastas: whole wheat spaghetti, elbow noodles, etc. - Cut-your-own Zum bar soap at the 119th St store in Overland Park, KS. Only our store at 91st has it, and we like to make only one trip. - Olive oil at the 91st St location in Overland Park. Only the store at 119th has it, and we like to make only one trip. - Compost should be in a more prominent location, so we don't feel like we're breaking the rules when we bring in our compost pail from home because the compost bins are only in the cafe area. I'm sure there's more, but that ought to get you started :)
03/19/2012 1:47:06 PM CDT
Robert Sharp says ...
Oops. - Grapes NOT in plastic bags. We want to pick our clusters of grapes and throw them in our own produce bags. - Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, kumquats, cherry tomatoes, etc NOT in plastic boxes. We want to pick our own from a bin and throw them in our own produce bags. - Cauliflower NOT in plastic bags. As you may have noticed, we don't like waste. Therefore, even though mashed cauliflower would be a great substitute for mashed potatoes, we can't ever do it because we can't find un-bagged cauliflower anywhere. - See if you can make your bulk bins airtight, so you can start doing some awesome things like bulk mini marshmallows and other more perishable foods.
03/19/2012 1:52:58 PM CDT
Christopher Miles says ...
I would like some of your stores (especially the older ones) to be a bit more energy efficient. Here in Philadelphia (as in many large cities) we have a summer heat island problem (Sun's heat gets absorbed by all the black surfaces. It would be great if, during a scheduled (or unscheduled) update of your older stores your team could add "White Roof" to the to do list. Recently I some amazing Refrigeration tech as well (at a Target no less) While I'm not suggesting you folks implement LEED platinum building standards- it would be nice if the stores themselves were as green and environmentally conscious as your great products. While in Sarasota, Fla- I was very impressed with the environmental aspects of the Downtown Whole Foods. More of that, please!
04/05/2012 12:29:21 AM CDT
Louise Sall says ...
When my carpeting is ready to be "re-placed", I wll do so with Bamboo flooring (highly sustainable) and much better for my allergies. I will begin to use coffee grounds around my house plants and in the garden. I have begun to use WHITE VINEGAR to breakdown shower scum and have started to do away with paper towels (replace instead with washable rags - made of worn clothing). Use "reuasable" bags - and phase out (or re-use) plastic ones.
04/22/2012 6:44:50 PM CDT
Mark says ...
What types of plastic bags can be recycled at Whole Foods' recycling drop-off bins? For instance, what about plastic bags from a loaf of bread or from inside a cereal box?
05/28/2013 3:19:03 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@MARK - Call your local store to double check, but those items are typically okay to bring in!
05/31/2013 12:38:42 PM CDT
Kendra says ...
Does whole foods offer recycling for its paper bags? thanks, Kendra
08/22/2013 8:50:03 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@KENDRA - All of our stores should have paper recycling bins. If you are needing to bring in quite a few paper bags, check with the store to see if they can accept more than a few.
08/23/2013 3:07:36 PM CDT
Shelly Whitehead says ...
How do we get our school on the bag credit list? Thanks!
08/28/2013 12:44:03 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@SHELLY - This would be determined by each store location. Check with your local store to find out their process.
08/28/2013 4:33:58 PM CDT
Julie list says ...
I am thankful that whole foods recycles number #5 plastics, I wish you would find a way to recycle #3, #4, and #6 plastics-as well as styrofoam.... ASAP!
09/15/2013 8:30:48 AM CDT
Michael Brierley says ...
I recently went to one of your stores in London, England and purchased 2 small items. The cashier asked whether I wanted a bag which I declined. Once she had rung the items up I noticed there was no bag rebate - when I queried this the cashier said it was because I hadn't brought my own bag. I kind of think this makes no sense. Surely you are trying to encourage people not rely on your store bags. What does it matter the receptical I use when leaving the store? Am I missing the bigger picture? Arguably if I had brought my own re-usable bag I would still be contributing to the issue of waste - as not only would that bag have had to be made (for the specific purpose of reducing people's reliance on shop bags) but also it would eventually have had to be disposed of. If more people put things in their pockets (after purchasing of course) then this would be EVEN better than re-usable bags....maybe there should be a pocket re-bate?!
02/03/2014 9:19:48 AM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@MICHAEL - This will often differ between locations. Most stores will only offer a bag discount when you bring in your own bag, not when a bag is not needed. You can always let your store know directly, if you haven't already, and they can let you know their exact policy!
02/03/2014 1:33:05 PM CST
Brendon OBrien says ...
I have been a long long time Whole Foods customer and always use my Whole Foods bags, occasionally one breaks and your employees have been more than happy to replace my broken bag. Today at the Del Mar California store, the checkout person and two supervisors made me feel like I was trying to get something for nothing. One supervisor named Marcus, basically scolded me from two checkout lanes over telling me he was unaware of that policy and he would not do it. I love the Encinitas store and go out of my way to go there even though I live very close to the Del Mar store. I will no longer go to the Del Mar store, especially with so many options like Sprouts, Trader Joes and Jimbos.
05/11/2014 6:02:43 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@BRENDON - My apologies about your recent experience. Were you able to talk with anyone in store leadership at Del Mar? If not, I would suggest asking to speak with them during your next visit so they can explain their policy on reusable bags and offer re-training to the Front End depending on their policy.
05/12/2014 1:05:08 PM CDT
Mackenzie F. says ...
Hi! I am 18, and my family and I are frequent Whole Foods shoppers in Hawaii. I know that the boxes for the hot food and salad bar are compostable food containers, but I couldn't help but wonder what could help reduce box usage, as I know that my family and I use at least 4 or 5 each time we pick up dinner. Then I thought, what if, similar to the reusable bags that you sell, Whole Foods started selling resuable containers that people could buy and bring in to use for the salad bar and hot food when they come in? I am not sure how you guys would go about weighing it for a price..maybe have a different scale and offer a slight discount because people brought in their own container? Just a thought! Thanks for reading this!
06/28/2014 6:36:55 PM CDT
Chris Raymond says ...
Your compostable food containers may make you feel good about yourself, but they are a disaster for the customer experience. You either have to have multiple individual items from the buffet and salad bar all run together in the compartment-less large tray, or use 6+ small foldover boxes for each item, which defeats the purpose, wouldn't you say? They make biodegradable versions of the clear plastic trays with compartment, and they even make a 2-compartment tray like your cardboard ones. Either is much more friendly to a customer being able to enjoy their food without it all running into one big pile as the container is bagged and transported home.
11/03/2014 12:06:28 PM CST
Rocketman says ...
Just would like to know if the print/ink on your paper bags (soy/vegetable ink) is non-gmo?
03/04/2015 7:32:50 PM CST
Alisdair says ...
Thank you for your good work. Do you allow customers to drop off composting at your stores; particularly the Tenleytown store in NW Washington DC? Thanks!
04/19/2015 10:49:08 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@ALISDAIR - This will differ between stores. Check with the stores directly to find out if they accept personal compost.
04/27/2015 1:38:47 PM CDT
David Vassar says ...
I just realized to my dismay my business just set out a heap of styrofoam cups to provide our patrons with free coffee. Does Whole Foods sell disposable hot beverage cups that are eco-friendlier than styrofoam? If so, I'll make it a point to procure them for our next event.
05/06/2015 6:55:03 PM CDT
Ida says ...
Has there been a change in the rebate BYOB policy? The last three times I went to WF (different ones in the SF Bay Area) and brought my bag, none of the cashiers gave a rebate.
05/11/2015 10:35:56 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@DAVID - Our exact cup options will differ between stores. Check with your local store directly to see what options they have in stock for coffee or hot beverages.
05/11/2015 10:36:04 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@ROCKETMAN - Our bags are printed at the regional level so I would suggest checking with your local store to see what ink is used for your local store.
05/11/2015 1:32:47 PM CDT