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Big Y initiative helps environment, nonprofits

SPRINGFIELD-As Big Y Foods, Inc. sets its sights on phasing out single use plastic bags in 2020 from its 70 supermarkets and specialty stores, along with its Big Y Express Gas and Convenience locations, it has also launched a Big Y Cares campaign that will benefit nonprofits.

The Big Y Community Bag Program with the Giving Tag is in full swing and for every purchase of a reusable bag by customers, $1 will be donated to a local nonprofit. According to the company website, each time a shopper purchases the special bag, they will have the “power” to direct a $1 donation to a nonprofit of their choice within seven days of their purchase. If the customer does not direct the donation within seven days, it will automatically be donated to the nonprofit the store leadership at that location has selected for the month.

In order to ease the transition from plastic bags, Big Y is offering special discounted pricing and promotions on the reusable bags through December.

The program is designed to make it easy for shoppers to give back to their local community while supporting the environment, according to the company’s website.

“Single use plastic bags can no longer be viewed as a long-term solution for our stores,” said Richard D. Bossie, vice president of store operations, in a statement. “Our customers and the communities we serve have made it quite clear that they prefer more environmentally friendly alternatives. We look forward to implementing this new program in all of our retail locations.”

Big Y officials note that the company has been complying with single use plastic bag bans in six of its local communities in Massachusetts – Adams, Amherst, Great Barrington, Lee, Northampton and South Hadley – since 2014. Big Y’s experience within these six markets prompted officials to evaluate the possibility of a chain-wide ban.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, more than 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States each year. If not disposed of properly, this plastic can end up in waterways and forests where it can harm fish, marine animals, birds and other wildlife.

Big Y noted in a press statement it recognizes its responsibility to cut down on unnecessary plastic waste that contributes to litter, harms the environment and can endanger wildlife. Currently, Big Y uses 100 million plastic bags and 3.5 million paper bags at checkouts each year. Also, the company stated that paper “is not the answer” to the waste problem as the paper production process is “harmful to the environment causing increased greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation.”

Big Y officials also encourage customers to return plastic bags since the bags are sent to recycling plants for use in decking.

Big Y officials stress that reusable bags should be washed regularly with soap and water or wiped clean with a disinfectant wipe. 

Locally, in January, the Westfield Big Y at 475 East Main St. designated funds raised from the reusable bags promotion to the Westfield Food Pantry, and this month has designated its donation would benefit the YMCA of Greater Westfield. In March, the Big Y has chosen Stanley Park in Westfield to receive the donation.

At the East Silver Street Big Y in Westfield, donations made in January from the sale of reusable bags were designated for the Westfield Soup Kitchen and in February, the YMCA of Greater Westfield will benefit from sales. In March, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield will receive the donations collected.

“I understand the Westfield Soup Kitchen was the nonprofit recipient for the January bag program, and we appreciate Big Y’s support for our mission,” said Ann Kousch, president of the board of directors of the Westfield Soup Kitchen on Meadow Street.

In Southwick, Big Y store management at 195 College Highway chose Our Community Food Pantry which serves Southwick, Granville and Tolland, to receive funds in January, and this month, the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Western Massachusetts, based in Agawam, will benefit from donations. In March, the Southwick store has designated New England Adventures as the nonprofit to benefit from reusable bag sales.

Participants in last year’s annual trout flotilla, sponsored by New England Adventures, was conducted on South Pond in Brookfield. New England Adventures has been chosen by Southwick Big Y to receive a portion of the proceeds raised during March when customers purchase a special reusable bag. (Submitted photo)

“The generosity of the community helps us to respond to families in need,” said Andrea Allard, CEO, YMCA of Greater Westfield. “Last year the YMCA of Greater Westfield served close to 6,000 families, adults and children. Through our financial assistance program we helped over 1,000 families and children and provided over $250,000 in scholarships. Financial support ensures that the YMCA is there for those who need us most.”

Allard added that the YMCA is “so much more than a gym.”

“From exercise to education, volleyball to volunteerism and preschool to preventive health, the Y doesn’t just strengthen our bodies, it strengthens our community,” said Allard, adding, “The Y is a cause dedicated to youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.”

Robert McKean, managing director of Stanley Park, shared a similar sentiment.

“This wonderful program the Big Y offers is a ‘win-win’ for all,” said McKean. “It is an easy way to help support Stanley Park, a local nonprofit. Purchasing these recyclable and eco-friendly bags will in turn help Stanley Park continue to sustain its environmental focus and objectives for our community.”

McKean noted that Stanley Park is reaching its 70th anniversary this year and pledges to continue to make the 300-acre park a “cherished visit” for all to enjoy for many more years to come.

“We are most appreciative for all the support we have and continue to receive as we will keep the legacy of Frank Stanley Beveridge and the many employees of Stanley Home Products moving forward,” said McKean.

Todd Crevier, founder and president of New England Adventures, based in Agawam, is also thankful to Southwick Big Y’s store management for choosing his nonprofit to benefit from the community bag program.

“Programs like this with Big Y are important to a nonprofit in a number of ways,” said Crevier. “First of all, most nonprofits are always looking for new funding streams to help close budget gaps. The Big Y bag program is a passive way for a nonprofit to get additional income that they don’t have to do much to get. Secondly, the Big Y bag program is confirmation for a nonprofit that their work is being noticed and supported.”

Crevier added that nonprofits “often work tirelessly” to bring attention to their mission.

“Funding support of this manner is not only a great financial boost,” said Crevier, adding, “it is also a great pat on the back for a job well done.”

Crevier noted that the Big Y bag program is also a “networking and messaging opportunity” for nonprofits.

“When a large company like Big Y announces to its customers that they are supporting an organization it prompts some people to your organization to find out what you are all about,” said Crevier, adding, “it also allows the nonprofit a chance to reach out to current supporters and encourage them to shop at and support Big Y.”

Crevier said he is “very proud” of the work and mission at New England Adventures and is “thrilled” to be supported by Big Y through the fundraising effort.

“As we work our mission and have direct impact on the lives of military families here in New England, it is comforting to know that our work is supported by community businesses like Big Y,” said Crevier.

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