You don’t get the “paper or plastic?” question at Whole Foods Market very often. The green grocery chain did away with plastic bags several years ago, and now it’s sending plastic gift cards to the scrap heap – er, recycling bin – too.

Whole Foods has announced that it will introduce two new types of gift cards – one made of 50% post-consumer waste paper, and another made of “responsibly-harvested wood”. “We want to make gift giving not only as simple as possible but also environmentally friendly,” the company’s “gift card team leader” Chris Jensen says in a news release. The new cards will require less energy to be produced, are reusable, recyclable, compostable and have a lower carbon footprint. (Just don’t leave them out in the rain.)

The existing 100% plastic gift cards will be phased out as the new cards are introduced. Whole Foods points out that it did reuse and recycle the plastic cards – more than a quarter-million in all – though it doesn’t say what it will do with all of those plastic cards once they’re no longer needed. For those who find even paper gift cards wasteful, Whole Foods also also offers e-gift cards on its website, that can be accessed via smartphone.


When it comes to coupons, Whole Foods does offer some e-coupons via an iPhone app from Whole Planet Foundation, but otherwise offers old-fashioned paper coupons on its website. Though, since you print the coupons yourself, you can opt to use recycled paper at least.

If all of this makes you want to applaud Whole Foods’ environmental efforts, great. If it makes you want to roll your eyes, then perhaps you’re among those who agree with a recent assessment of the store and its customers. A brief blurb in this past weekend’s New York Times Magazine resurrected a controversial study that implied Whole Foods shoppers are “jerks”. “Still wondering why that creep at Whole Foods ran over your toe with his cart and didn’t apologize?” the one-paragraph item begins. “A research team from Loyola University recently found that people who eat organic food are, on the whole, more likely to be jerks.”

The report referenced actually came out last May, and got plenty of coverage back then, though it didn’t call out any particular retailer by name. The study determined that participants who ate organic foods were more judgmental, self-righteous and less helpful than those who ate comfort foods. “Exposure to organic foods may lead people to affirm their moral identities, which attenuates their desire to be altruistic,” the study concluded, though “Whole Foods Shoppers Are Jerks” makes for a much catchier headline.

But if saving the world is wrong, then maybe Whole Foods doesn’t want to be right. “Moving away from plastic gift cards is one way we can help make a difference,” Whole Foods says.


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