Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Green Bagging It

With the ringing in of the New Year, why not make one of your resolutions for 2008 a green one? When you head to the checkout with your purchases at the grocery store or any store, bring your own reusable bags. Keep a stash in your car or a small foldable one in your purse, and you'll be ready to answer "No, thanks," to "Do you need a bag?" Challenge everyone in your family to remember to take reusable bags whenever you head out for a shopping trip. This simple step to preserve natural resources really adds up when you think of all the plastic bags you might use in a year. Read about the decision our two Austin stores recently made to end the use of plastic bags at the checkout, one more step on the ongoing journey toward a greener operation.

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80 comments

Comments

kp says …

For Christmas, I gave presents "wrapped" in reusable bags. It was part of the gift, they were usually less expensive than a gift bag, AND I didn't use wrapping paper which cannot be recycled. This year I plan on doing it for all gifts!!

JAD says …

kp, that was a GREAT idea!! I think I'm going to use that one! I don't like wrapping paper myself...I think using a plain paper shopping bag, cutting it to be flat and decorating it creatively makes better wrapping paper. That's how I currently mail packages through the post office except I don't decorate the packages. I also use reusable bags every time & everywhere I shop, and I don't like how sometimes I get looked at funny...like "oh, here comes one of those....", alsmost as if they don't know why I'm using my own bags? Alot of stores accept them and are very accomodating, but others are clueless. Especially disbount department stores...does anyone else use their reusable bags in stores OTHER than FOOD stores? or am I the only one? All I know is that I really dislike plastic bags. Thanks for your tip, kp!!

Mary says …

Not only do I use the reusable bags at the checkout, but I use reusable mesh bags for produce instead of the single-use plastic they have in the produce section. The bags are see-through, so the checkout clerk can still see what you purchased. Their weight is very minimal so I don't really worry about having to pay more by using them either. Try www.ecobags.com! The less plastic used, the better!

Tricia Andrews says …

I have gone vegetarian for good starting Jan 1, 2008. It is better for my health, the animals I don't eat, and the environment. I will also make a very strong effort to buy foods only from the southeastern states (I am in North Carolina) so my carbon footprint is smaller. I will continue to take my own bags to the grocery store.

JAD says …

Thanks fdor the tip on the ecobags website, Mary...I just ordered the mesh produce bags...I was wondering how to solve that problem! I buy ALOT of veggies at Whole Foods Market and I was really feeling gulity about putting them in the plastic produce bags, but I didn't know what else to do...now I can't wait to get those mesh ones!!

Rozanne Oliver says …

For those plastic bags that still accumulate: nonprofit food distribution programs -- e.g., Arlington Food Assistance Center in Arlington, VA -- need clean bags for groceries for clients.

Maril Crabtree says …

Last July 4th I declared my Independence from plastic bags and have since made it a focus. Like KP, I gave gifts this year in reusable bags that I purchased online at www.1bagatatime.com. The bags come with a tag that concisely explains why reusable bags are important and just how much energy you're saving by using them. I carry my bags in the car so that I can use them at all stores. I've also discuvered, though, that for those quick drugstore purchases, etc. you can do without a bag of any kind. Just tell the clerk "no thanks, I don't need a bag." Sooner or later I hope to retrain a few of them not to automatically drop something into a plastic bag! My New Year's bag resolution is to extend my focus to trash bags. I recently found out that they make BIODEGRADABLE trash bags. Otherwise, the trash bags that get buried in the landfill simply live on for centuries. Only a few stores carry these bags - Whole Foods does in some locations but not all - they cost a bit more but are just as strong and will biodegrade in a matter of weeks, not eons!

Kris says …

Oooh the mesh bags is a *great* idea! In 2007 my main goal was water conservation. I am also in NC in one of the counties hit hardest by the drought. All the simple things you hear about doing; not leaving the water running, washing only full loads of clothes, etc...really do make a difference. We reduced our water consumption from almost 40 gallons a person in my household to less than 30 gallons per person/day/month. I still want it to be less. I will be installing low-flow shower heads in our showers and I would love to replace our washer as well to a front loader (if only that big price tag wasn't in the way...sigh). My washer uses a ghastly 50 gallons of water per load...ack. We've also gone to shopping with our own bags and food shopping almost exclusively at the Farmer's Market during the spring/summer/fall months for produce, herbs, and eggs. We changed all of our Christmas lights this year to LED lights...and while the "true white" took some getting used to and we definitely stuck out in the neighborhood, my energy consumption has not taken a noticable hit for the month of December like it usually does. This year, my big goal is to go paperless around the house where I can. I like paper towels, I enjoy paper towels, but we use soooooo many of them. So, through the use of dishcloths, hand towels, and fingertip towels, I would like to move towards *no* papertowels. I would also like to wrap gifts next year in reused items such as the already mentioned paper bags and cloth bags. We make our own household cleaners so I also like the idea given regarding an earth friendly cleaner being part of a gift.

Robin Franz says …

Thanks for the eco-friendly tip with the bags. I go to a lot of conferences for work, and have turned all the bags I received through the events into grocery bags. I have a few at the office, a few in the car, and a few at home, so I am ready for all my purchases! Each set usually has a few plastic bags that I continue to reuse for produce.

AEP says …

why use plastic bags for produce at all? I skip them completely and just pile everything into the cart. I've never believed the plastic saves me from any dirt or germs. If they're not shipped in plastic after what is usually a long journey (I wish I could get more local foods at WFM!), a plastic bag for the last mile of their journey to get to my home isn't going to do much.

jpeezy says …

i like to use reusable bags and put the nickel i get each time in the bag. i shop frequently and by the end of the month i usually have enough to buy a compact flourescent bulb. goodbye, wasteful incandescents!!

F Savarick says …

When we have a party and use those plastic utensils, I make a point of putting them in the dishwasher to be reused. This is the same as washing our flatware. It comes out clean and and ready to be reused and not put into landfill. Not sure why I didn't think of this sooner

Stasi says …

Here's my green tip: we learned that we could purchase all wind power through our electric company. But being poor students, it was hard to justify the extra cost (it should be cheaper, IMHO!). However, we switched all our electronics - computers, TV, even microwave - to power strips and/or outlets connected to wall switches. We keep them off when not using them, and wouldn't you know, we more than made up for the cost of the wind power! Now we pay about the same electric bill, use a lot less electricity, and get it all from a clean source. What a great deal! (yes, at first it is annoying to reset your clocks or channels every time you turn the TV on, but we got used to it really fast and learned tricks for getting around those menus that pop up - usually just turning it off and on again will do it)

AJS says …

I have found that when I go shopping, if I take my own tote bag, I can facilitate the process by packing my own groceries. There are moments when I have been caught off-guard without my tote bag; however, I'll make sure to minimize the number of bags I use (especially by not double-bagging). A trick I did while doing some New Years' shopping was to place all items subsequently purchased in the same bag (from the initial purchase). Since I was able to consolidate all of my errands within the same 6 block radius, I never moved the car. I was able to minimize carbon emissions and get exercise. Next time, to really make a difference, I think I'll take my tote bag and take the train!

Cassie says …

This may sound extremely simple, but I noticed that my boyfriend and I would use insane amounts of paper towels daily! We switched to using cloth towels instead, and what a difference in the amount of garbage it has made! Cloth towels do the same job as paper, but you save so much money, and waste! Instead of going out weekly to fork more cash, just head to a washing machine, or even easier, wash them by hand in the sink.

terry says …

i decided to start making my own "chewy granola bars" for the purpose of reducing preservatives in my family's diet. however, i came to realize that i'm also doing the environment a service. i wrap the bars in biodegradeable waxed paper and i don't have deal with an empty cardboard box!

Christine says …

I hope that Whole Foods decides to discontinue plastic bags at all its location and not just in Austin!

Stacey says …

I making a decision to buy only what my family will eat this year in an effort to try and reduce our food waste. Although our family is small, we only have a 2 year old son, every time I have to throw out food, I think of the energy it took to grow and get that to the supermarket shelf. I also think of the others who may not have enough to eat and of the money I'm wasting.

Karmell says …

I want to take the BYOB one step further. Go through your families clothes and pick out the t-shirts no one wears anymore. Sew up the bottom seam and cut the neck to make the opening wider and POOF a free green bag! Keep them in your car and one small folded one in your purse. I also keep a clean reusable travel mug in my car for when I go to coffee shops.

CY says …

I live in NYC and my new years resolution is to bring a reusable bag with me when ever I go shopping whether it is to the grocery store or just shopping in general. In order to help myself remember to grab a reusable bag before I leave. I've started to hang them by the door so I see them as I leave and just grab one and go.

Elizabeth says …

For 2008 I have decided to move to as many environmentally friendly products as possible. As my conventional cleaning and household products run out, I'm replacing them with environmentally friendly cleaners, laundry detergent, cat litter, etc. I buy in bulk to reduce my use of packaging. I have been using reusable cloth grocery bags for some time, which I also take to other stores. I've also started buying more locally grown products when available, such as eggs, honey, cheese, grains and vegetables.

Felicia says …

One step I make is the reusable shopping bags or saying no to a bag when I buy just a couple of products. I make great efforts to buy local and sustainable foods. When I need to buy canned goods and such, I read ingredients label and buy foods with as few processed ingredients as possible. All of those chemicals must contribute to global warming in more ways than one. Going green is helping me lose weight which helps reduce my carbon footprint as well. I try to walk when I can. And years before hybrids, I bought a car which gets a minimum of 35 mpg. My community has a recycling program which I take full advantage of. Not only are we able to recycle paper, boxes, plastic containers and cans but our yard waste program allows us to recycle certain foods that are turned into compost. When I purchase small appliances, I try to make sure they have multiple uses. Also, rechargeable batteries are reused a lot around my house. One of the easiest "greens" to do is donate your old items which still have life in them. If you know someone getting married or having a baby, see if you have items that they would like to use. When I got married, my parents and in-laws cleaned out their cabinets and helped us out with items we didn't receive in wedding showers. A bassinet that has been in my family for decades has cradled so many new babies, saved the new parent’s money and our landfills multiple pieces of furniture. This year for Christmas we participated in helping a local family by cleaning out our closet and donating two TV’s to the organization for other families. I'm ready to go back through my closet and donate more clothes to an organization that helps abused women acquire clothing to assist them in gaining employment and/or getting better jobs. I've started replacing my chemical cleaners with non-chemical items that clean even better, such as baking soda and vinegar. It's healthier for my lungs and cleaner for my drains which drain into waterways that fish swim in. When I am at home, I only use one glass to drink out of, instead of getting a new glass every time I want something to drink. Every light fixture in my home that would take a compact florescent light bulb was changed. If I only have a few dishes, I hand wash them. But I don’t just let the water run, I fill the sink with a little water and soap and wash until my rinse sink is full. Then I rinse them off and let them air dry or I towel dry with a cloth towel that is washable. I have a front loading high efficiency washer and dryer and three-fourths of my laundry is air dried reducing the amount I use my dryer. I also clean my dryer’s lint filter after every use. I have a programmable thermostat on my heater and keep it set to 66 degrees when we are not home. When we are home, we use blankets and dress warmly to keep the heater at about 70 degrees. But when we go to bed, the thermostat goes back to 66 degrees. I look for product packaging that is recyclable and made from recycled products. Also, I check out books and magazines from my local library. My plan for 2008 is to begin using washable cloth napkins at home instead of paper napkins. I already use dish towels to conserve paper towels when possible. There's a lot of room for "green" improvement in my life. However, I do hope the changes I have made are making a difference. Hopefully, your readers will get ideas from my life and come up with even more ways to help Mother Earth live longer and healthier.

Rebecca Asher says …

I put reused plastic bags inside of my canvas shopping bags that I have in my car in order to place lettuce & all vegetables in them through the check-out. Rarely do I have to wash them out but just shake out any stray leaves and return to my larger shopping bag again. I make it a habit to never take a new plastic bag from the produce section. All the plastic that is in the world now, is here to stay so I avoid contributing that drain.

Rebecca Asher says …

I only buy glass storage containers to put left-overs into rather than all the tuperware/plastic containers that are everywhere. Make a commitment to stop purchasing any plastic and see how far you can get. Any improvement counts. It is hard to get away from all plastic when buying yogurt but most food items can be found in glass (like juices etc.). It certainly takes more effort and some sacrifices but I feel it's worth it with the decrease in petroleum non-recyclable products.

Stefanie Schmidt says …

This year for my "Green" resolution I am going to try and purchase as many "Green" products I can. Not just organic foods, but also household cleaners and clothes. It will be a challenge to not just go for convenience over green, but I am going to do it and help the environment at the same time.

Lisa Griffin says …

Why use biodegradable trash bags? Go without! We quit using kitchen/bathroom trashbags over a year ago, we empty the trash into our outside can and wash the inside cans as needed (about once a week). We've not missed them! The biodegradeable bags will only degrade rapidly if exposed to air, covered with tons of garbage in the landfill it doesn't happen, so they are really no better than other plastic bags if they end up in the landfill. I gave reuseable shopping bags as gifts this year also - small ones that fold into their own stuff sack, clip onto a purse or backpack - the kids loved them! (available at reuseablebags.com).

Lisa Griffin says …

On another note, if Whole Foods is going to use compostable containers at the food bar (which I applaud), why not provide a trash bin to put them in? If they are put in a bin with a plastic lining, which they are at the store in Louisville - how are they going to decompose? And, when are all Whole Foods stores going to do away with plastic bags, including produce bags?

monique gordon says …

I had a problem with one of your green bags: it tore at the seams after first use. Once it was replaced the seams where the handles were suppose to been reinfores tore. I purchased a canvas bag to solve my issue and ended up using the green bag to dispose of trash on trash day.

monique gordon says …

greener life- I reuse the mesh bags that fruits and veggies come in by first removing UPC label and bagging my fruits and veggies in them when shopping. Second, we also reused the mesh bags for wrapping gifts (wrap gift in newspaper decorate then place in mesh bag and tie with reusable ribbon.) Third, place soap in bag, tie bag in knot and use as loofah

Barbara Rubin says …

Green doesn't always equal 'healthy' I would like to bring to the attention of the readers and WF executives that many WF customers that I know cannot go into some of your stores at all and many more may be lost in the future. People going to WF go out of health necessity or health consciousness. Certain practices make it impossible to benefit from the wonderful array of products sold towards that end. Many of your stores use conventional pesticides on the premises, often outdoors and some, indoors. There is no such thing as being a certified 'organic' food store when pesticides are in the vicinity. The drift, even from outdoor application or indoor use in 'the back rooms', is sufficient to contaminate the goods on the shelves and produce aisles. There are a wealth of alternatives to conventional pesticides and it is imperative that WF explore those if you are to lead the food industry in organic and sustainable practices. I recall becoming very ill years ago when pesticide foggers were used in my local NY store. I was disabled from pesticide poisoning shortly before that happened and never expected to encounter those chemicals at WF. Secondly, the World Health Organization and every environmental group knows that wood smoke is a hazard to the respiratory system. With over 38 million Americans having lung problems (asthma and COPD), the presence of 'smokehouses' inside of WF stores (like the Ann Arbor MI locale), will absolutely bar many people from entering. I have seen many of your customers dragging oxygen tanks inside, others with masks or using inhalers - you cater to those with health problems but such practices are making access less and less possible. The disabled and elderly have little money to spare. If we are to buy healthy food, we cannot afford to hire people to shop for us as well. Surely you can sell smoked meats to your customers without their breathing in the fumes created in the process. Lastly, I would urge you to use shrink wraps and/or glass cases to exhibit your scented candles and fragranced products. Many of us with lung problems have to avoid buying our vitamins at your locations because the personal care products and household items are producing fumes which bar us from being anywhere near those aisles. The combinations of scents confuse selection in any case, and also magnify the adverse effects upon consumers. Even essential oils are often combined through the use of solvents (like hexane) and the oils themselves are so concentrated as to comprise irritants. Synthetic fragrances are very well known to contain toxic ingredients, never revealed on the labels. Reducing the burden here would also maintain your reputation as a 'healthy' place. I hope you will take these recommendations seriously. You can even engage a toxicologist to assess the degree of drift and intensity of pollutants created by such practices. I assure you that the results of attending to these problems will increase your profits and reduce worker rates of illness. I spend a hundred dollars each week in your stores as you sell the only foods I can eat given my own medical condition. The idea that I would have to shop elsewhere for inferior products is a shame, should my local stores follow these practices. Thank you for your attention. Barbara Rubin

Jami Nato says …

This year I’m going to not only unplug my electronics, I’m going to unplug my life. Every time I use some electronic device, I will unplug it after I use it—the TV, hair dryer, microwave, lamps, etc… Those 2 seconds of extra time means a better environment and a lower bill. On that same note, I’m going to unplug from being over busy. When I’m bored or have free time, instead of wasting my energy and the environment’s to watch TV or get in the car to go shopping, I’m going to go on a walk, spend time with my family, do something creative, and exercise my brain—instead of my wallet.

cndy says …

We use beach bags to take our groceries home. They are great for this purpose. After summer they go on sale at most of the stores like kmart, target, walmart, etc. By doing this we save a tree or two and we don't polute the earth with plastic. Also we use large backpacks for just picking up a few things. Think green!

Latisha says …

Hello, Whole Foods friends. I just wanted to add a special little joy to the world. My partner and I have stepped up our efforts to recycle and found a great way to bond, enjoy nature and recycle as well. Every two weeks or so we drop off our recyclables at Montrose Harbor recycle bins, usually located right next to the normal trash bins. We enjoy the sunrise on the lake, the birds and the gifts that the universe gives us. This time is special to us and within a short distance from our home, so it has become something special to us and important for the environment as well. Sincerely, happy whole foods customer! Latisha

monique gordon says …

I made placemates as gifts and wrapped gifts w/in placemetes. I also made bookmarks from old cards and photos and mail those as xmas greeings cards. For storage I reuse food jars.

Tracie Isgrig says …

I use the plastic bags that I currently have to wrap and cushion christmas ornaments in after the holidays. I've been re-using some of the same ones for 5 or 6 years.

monique gordon says …

I goot to recycling every 1st and 3rd Saturaday of the moth in Philadelphia and people hang brown shopping bags on the gate. I collect dozens to dispose of leaves, If they are out of brown bags I purchase the tall brown bags @ Super Fresh or Home Depot for trash. I wrap garbage that can't be used for compose in newspaper like a meat packer packes meat. We do not use plastic trash bags, garbage bag, china etc.

Kathy Hill says …

Used fabric-softener sheets are good to use for stuffing quilts, etc. or for dolls, pillow-corners, etc.

Cathy Benedetto says …

We have to bag our trash - not just throw it in the trash can. I use bags from the grocery store. How do four plastic grocery bags compare to one trash bag bought specifically for the one use of tossing out the trash?

Walt says …

My wife and I are also trying to live green through extensive use of compact fluorescents, front-loading washer and dryer, cloth towels in the kitchen, etc. But I'm wondering if anyone beside me is recycling all those plastic shopping bags? I mean, if only one out of two shoppers took the time to return the bags to the stores, we'd save 250 billion plastic bags from being produced in the first place!! Unfortunately, the closest WF store is two hours away, so we can't shop there regularly. Nevertheless, it seems to me that for the overwhelming majority of grocers still issuing plastic bags, most seem to provide a way to recycle them, but nearly nobody does. Shame on us. Canvas totes are great, but since you're already hauling multiple bags back to the store, bringing back plastic bags seems just as easy to me. My net (bag) impact on the environment is zero as they don't end up clogging drains and adding to the blight of the landscape. Am I missing something?

Mo Stoycoff says …

My new year's resolution is to revive the time-honored tradition of using cloth handkerchiefs. I already use cloth napkins and hand-towels. But, with my allergies, I was using a lot of kleenex, which is made from virgin wood and contributes too much to landfills (which are 40-60% paper products, depending on which study you read). Unless you use the scratchy recycled kind, which I don't like. So I've brought back handkerchiefs. And before you cry "germs!" I should say that I do not reuse the same one over and over throughout the day. I bought a large batch of lovely antique hankies that I fold up and put in a cloth bag after use, and the whole bag goes in the wash when I'm done. That's slightly more wash to be done, but worth the trees it will save. Mo

Fsavarick says …

There is a great differece from merely recylcing your plastic bags at the store and using canvas ones. To maufacture new plastic bags they are usuinf petrolium and energy and to recycle energy is also being used. Why not just go with the canvas tote? I have also heard but wondering if anyone else would know that our plastics that we cannot recyle are shipped to China and it affects the workers health who have to use these materials for howerver they use them. So best to go with canvas.

Natlie says …

My 2008 resolutions: no bags, no plastic bottles for water or juice, and no styrofoam and triple plastic wrap for meats and fish -- bringing newspaper (weekly circulars) for that, trying something new. When I tell store clerks: "No! I don't want any bags! Here, I have my own!" I don't get stared at like I'm a terrorist so much any more, and it helps to pipe in "My New Year's Resolution." This year, so far, I've gotten much better response. It's a bit of work to keep the shopping supplies organized and in the car, but it's become a habit. Love having less and less trash. Really enjoy the water filter at our local WF store, I bring glass 1 gallon jugs for refilling, water tastes great! With the reusable bag refund, cuts cost to 45 cents per gallon water. THRILLED that WF's is phasing out plastic bags. People will stop being "lazy" and start getting creative about shopping bag methods.

Frances says …

We've used cloth napkins for years at home - I bought a bundle of dishcloths and those are good for years, and easy to wash. When they finally wear out and get "holey" I put them in the rag basket to use for washing the car, etc., and buy new ones. What I've been working on since the new year is this: we recently adopted a two-year old lab from the animal shelter, and she and I have been taking a walk every morning. We walk 2 -3 miles, and I pick up all the cans, glass and plastic I find to bring home to put in our recycle bin. Frequently, I find a plastic bag while we are out, and I can put all my recyclables in it, and then put the bag in with the others I return to the grocery store for recycling. I always use string bags when I shop, but I take all other plastic bags, like newspaper bags and bread bags, back for recycling.

tina says …

Me and my environmentally conscience friends share the same problem: forgetting to bring our reusable/canvas bags. So I propose WF implements these simple motivational tactics for these customers to encourage the use of reusable/canvas bags. (1) cash back or say...a 3-5% discount immediately (2) a card that receives a hole punch each time you bring your canvas bag to the store, after 5-10 visits, you are rewarded with a discount or cash back (3) a book of coupons as a reward for bringing the canvas bag. What do you think Mr. Whole Foods?

Steve says …

Well, Jeff Daly---I wish there was a way for me to contact you, for I am a big fan of these other biodegradable kitchen bags I buy from my local market, and I'd like more information on your bags and diapers. I have reviewed other Earth-friendly products, and I would love to review your product on my environmental blog and give you some free press.

Lynn Murphy says …

It is so exciting to see such awareness building regarding plastic - all of which ever made is still on the earth..........Please take a moment to go to the following website to read the article -- page two regarding the sea turtle was particularly illustrative to me. Then send it along to everyone you know. (also bagit.com is a great resource for compostible bags of all sizes -- and they do decompose!) The web address is: http://www.bestlifeonline.com/cms/publish/travelleisure/Our_oceans_are_turning_into_plastic_are_we.shtml

Crystal says …

I too wrapped some gifts in reusable shopping bags. The Whole Foods "A Better Bag" had a fun holiday look to it. I will also be giving Whole Foods gift certificates, as I know some of my family members shop there.

Steven says …

Great decision to ban plastic shopping bags by Earth Day 2008! Hopefully you will influence other retailers to follow suite (like you did with organic foods). I'm promoting your store and your decision on my blog. Check it out!

gerrie sammak says …

How about ringing in the New Year with napkin rings? Before the dawn of the paper napkin our fore families used cloth napkins. Rather than washing the napkin after every meal (a waste of energy and time) each family member had a napkin ring to put their lightly used napkin into after their meal. The cloth napkin was used over again until it actually needed washing. You'll often find antique napkin rings that are monogramed so that the owner knew what napkin was theirs. Bring back the napkin rings to your family dinners-the cloth feels much better and you save the trees and landfill space.

Jeff Daly says …

I am trying to reach your purchasing dept buyer for the BIODEGRADABLE Bags. I have these for the POS counteer check out, Kitchen trash and Lawn & Leaf. In about 120 days I will have the BIODEGRADABLE diapers as well. This is Completely Green! It starts out as recycled plastic then it has a mixture blended with the bag. THE BAGS ARE COMPLETELY GREEN, BIODEGRADABLE AND ENTIRELY COMPOSTABLE IN 60 - TO- 90 DAYS! This can be the resolution to eliminating the plastic bags. The bags have been FDA tested & approved. Please pass this e-mail on to your purchasing agent. Hopefully I will hear from you soon. Respectfully. Jeff Daly

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