3P SoundBite: Emily Utter of ChicoBags

ChicoBag-Beauty-Shot-10-200.jpg3P SoundBite emerged from our desire to show that entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in sustainability come from all different walks of life…they could be people you know, or they could even be you! Every Thursday, we bring you a new profile and a new perspective.
Ever heard of an anti-plastic bag lobbyist? You haven’t until you meet Emily Utter, brand evangelist of ChicoBags in Chico, Calif. She knows her politics and readily points out that San Francisco was the first city to ban plastic bags in grocery stores. Formerly an employee at the San Francisco Department of the Environment, Emily worked with the city of San Francisco to propose grocery bag fees.
Today, Emily asks TriplePundit to reach out to the community to aid her in her cause.
Read inside to find out how you can help!

About ChicoBags: Shortly after graduating from business school, Andy Keller took one look at the Neal Road Landfill in Chico some years ago and noticed that plastic bags were everywhere. In response to this, Andy developed the first prototype for a reusable bag and created a company: Chico Bags.
How Chico Bags work: The prototype that Andy developed included a small carabiner so the bag can be attached to a backpack and a small pouch allows the user to tuck the bag away in a safe place, ready for the next trip to the grocery store.
Ireland, model for the Plastic Bag Ban: Emily says that imposing a plastic bag fee creates an incentive to change behavior. “It’s not just seen as a fringe thing anymore.”
In Ireland, the fee imposed was at 15 cents per bag and within a year, 90% started carrying their own bags, which she says created a social norm. “People who didn’t carry their own bags were embarrassed,” Emily said.
The ChicoBags Archenemy:Emily tells TriplePundit that she has only one enemy in life, and that is the family of Plastic Bag Monsters. One Bag Monster can be made up of 600 bags, the typical number an individual uses in a year. In a recent Santa Monica City Council meeting, a Bag Monster says he is seen in 32% of landfills and complains of being so pervasive, as plastic bags cannot decompose naturally.
Reducing plastic bag waste: “Pay it forward,” Emily suggests. She often offers ChicoBags to strangers, trading in their plastic bags for a ChicoBag. “Now you need to give a reusable bag to someone else,” she tells them. “I usually give people a bag when I am in a grocery line, and everyone is watching.”
Now, Emily Utter wants to know how TriplePundit readers practice the old “reduce, reuse, recycle” principle. We have five colorful ChicoBags (red, yellow, orange, blue and green) to give away to readers in exchange for the best and most practical tips.
The winners will be determined by active readers and the TriplePundit staff!
More on ChicoBags: http://www.chicobags.com
Also, meet the ChicoBags rival, the Bag Monster, by clicking here.
Want to be featured on 3P Soundbite? Email ‘Contact at ClaraKuo dot com’ and tell us about your unique perspective!
Clara Kuo is a marketing communications strategist with an MBA in international marketing from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Her professional interests include social media, entrepreneurship/intrapreneurship and the triple bottom line. She blogs here and on her self-named blog (www.clarakuo.com).

Clara lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and considers herself an international citizen. She has an MBA from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and currently works in San Francisco as a marketing analyst. You can find her tweeting, blogging or simply continue an existing 3P conversation by commenting on a post.

4 responses

  1. As a resident of San Francisco I was ecstatic about the plastic bag ban. While I ride my bike to get most of my groceries I still shop at large grocery stores for some items. Having paper bags in my car at all times for those items has saved my butt on more than one occasion. I use them for such varied purposes as ground cover for putting on my tire chains when going over the Sierras on I-80 in a snowstorm to storing my dirty clothes on my work road trips until I get home. I was introduced to Chico bags at a recent EcoTuesday event, they seem to be just as multi-purpose as plain old paper bags and I bet they will last longer as well as take up less room in my car.
    p.s. Green is my favorite color.

  2. There are a few paper items I have learned to do without: paper towels and paper coffee filters. Cloth towels wipe up spills just fine, and my coffee tastes the same with a reusable coffee filter.

  3. That’s a good point, Gina. I always notice paper towels disappear fast and it’s more out of habit than anything else! For those who don’t have a coffee brewer, French Presses work quite well and just need a rinse after use.

  4. As a Bay sailboater, I’m delighted with the SF plastic ban, and would love to see it extended to the entire Peninsula. We see the plastic bags in the water far too often. No doubt you’ve all heard about the harm they do when marine critters eat them.

    Every stray bag you see blowing along on the west (windward) side of the Bay will find its way into the Bay eventually. Once it’s wet, it’s not going to fly again, and I’ve never (yet) seen a day so windy that it could carry a plastic bag clear across the Bay without a single “bounce.”

    During the first few hours after the bag gets in the Bay, it’s likely to float high in the water. When we’re sailing, we sometimes use these for man-overboard drills: pretend the bag is a swimmer, and maneuver the boat to a stop next to the bag (to windward is best) long enough to fish it out with a boat hook.

    After a while the bags lose their trapped air bubbles and lie flat in the water, hard to see. Within a few days algae and whatnot starts to grow on them, so they start to sink. They’re still neutrally buoyant for quite a while, so they ride the tides out the Gate eventually.

    So. Reusable bags, definitely. The end of plastic grocery bags can’t come too soon.

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