FAIRBANKS - Fred Meyer stores are encouraging customers to be in the black when they enter.
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The chain is offering deals on reusable black polypropylene grocery tote bags as a substitute for disposable plastic bags.
Since the chain started selling the bags for 99 cents each last year, more than 200,000 have been sold. By next year, store officials hope to increase that to 1 million. Making the switch will help the environment, they said.
"Plastic takes a long time to degrade, not to mention the resources and the room it takes up," said company spokeswoman Melinda Merrill.
The average family uses 400 plastic bags per year, according to the chain. A coupon offers three reusable bags to any customer who spends $75 or more and uses a rewards card.
"We hope to give away hundreds of thousands, if not millions," Merrill said.
Additional bags are available at two for 99 cents. The bags come with a lifetime guarantee, and if they wear out, may be exchanged for new ones.
Fairbanks' two stores were out of the bags Thursday and offering rain checks. Bags given out in Alaska include a plastic strip on the bottom so that the bags can be put on the ground without getting groceries wet.
Merrill said the chain will probably keep using plastic and paper for a few items, but hopes to drastically cut down next year.
"They have their uses for produce and meat, so I don't think people will completely stop using them," she said. "But a lot of the reusable bags are a good alternative."