Buffalo Exchange Thinks Outside the Bag for Sustainability

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Resale shop Buffalo Exchange asks customers to bring their own bags. Photo: Melanie Medina

Resale shop Buffalo Exchange asks customers to bring their own bags. Photo: Melanie Medina

From the time that Kerstin and Spencer Block opened the first Buffalo Exchange store in 1974, the company has been dedicated to sustainability. Providing hip and fun stores for customers to buy, sell and trade new and recycled clothing and accessories, the company has grown to include 46 stores and three franchises in 17 states.

The store’s sustainability efforts go well beyond giving clothes a second life through reuse and recycling. Among the many initiatives the store has implemented over the years is the innovative Tokens for Bags program, which has raised nearly $525,000 since 1994. The money raised has gone to local nonprofit organizations and also has kept some 10.4 million bags out of the landfill.

Long before the “bring your own bag” concept became cool and commonplace, Buffalo Exchange identified this as an area where they could reinforce the “reduce, reuse and recycle” mind-set. When shoppers decline a bag, they’re given a 5-cent token instead. That token can then be placed into a box representing a charity — there are three boxes/charities to choose from at each location.

Given the more than half a million dollars raised by this campaign alone, it has shown its merit. And now, other stores are borrowing from Buffalo Exchange and creating similar campaigns. At Whole Foods Market,  many of the stores offer customers a wooden token for every reusable bag that customers bring in and use for carting home their groceries. Each bag they bring in represents 5 cents, and shoppers can choose which selected charity they’d like to give their donation to. A similar program exists at Wild Oats Market, a member-owned cooperative.

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