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A Middlebury Bookstore Creates a Reusable Bag Share

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The bag exchange - COURTESY OF JENNY LYONS
  • Courtesy Of Jenny Lyons
  • The bag exchange

A Middlebury bookstore has implemented a novel concept.

In an effort to reduce waste, patrons at the Vermont Book Shop can now take — or leave — a reusable bag. The idea is modeled after the ubiquitous "take a penny, leave a penny" trays found at stores nationwide, said marketing manager Jenny Lyons, who initially stocked the bag bin with dozens of reusable cloth totes she'd collected at publishers' conferences.

She started the program on March 4 — one day before Middlebury residents resoundingly voted to ban single-use plastic bags. Burlington and Manchester voters passed similar measures on Town Meeting Day. 

"I have been handing out less bags, and people seem happy to take [the reusable bags]," Lyons said. "It seems to be working!"

Inspiration came, in part, from tidying expert Marie Kondo, who motivated Vermont Book Shop owner Becky Dayton to clean out her closets, Lyons said. Dayton discovered a stash of tote bags she'd collected over the years, but she had given them away by the time the store implemented the bag share.

"I thought of it too late," Lyons said.

No matter, according to Lyons, who said the exchange has been "readily adopted." The rules are simple: Only clean, reusable bags are accepted. Plastic and paper bags are not. Shoppers can find the bright green bin by the front door.

Lyons wouldn't take credit for inventing the concept. She found stores in Canada and Vail, Colo., that had done something similar. And she acknowledged that the Vermont Book Shop still makes both paper and plastic bags available.

"A book in the rain or snow could get damaged, so we have not totally banned plastic bags yet," she said. "But I imagine that could be a natural next step."

The original print version of this article was headlined "Take It or Leave It"

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