The Marion Street Cheese Market is best known for its wines and, well, cheeses.

But you might not realize until you’re out of the store that the bag your gourmet goodies are in isn’t your standard plastic bag: it’s made of corn fiber, and it’s biodegradable.

“I’ve always had, as one of our missions for our business, to be as environmentally friendly as we can,” said owner Eric Larson.

The bags look and feel like standard plastic bags but will break down into elements harmless to the environment. Larson’s deli containers are also made of biodegradable corn fiber.

“As I was looking at different sources, I stumbled upon this and just fell in love,” Larson said.

Larson started to use the bags and containers about six months after opening the cheese market, and has been using them for two years since.

His environmentalism doesn’t save him any money, though. The bags and the containers cost him about twice as much as standard plastic ones.

Larson believes his customers appreciate the effort, though. He focuses on organic products from small family farms, and people who come to the Market looking for that sort of thing also appreciate the bags.

In addition, Larson gives his customers a $0.25 discount if they bring their own bag.

“It gets people thinking about it, and it’s just a nice way of respecting them,” Larson said.

But the Marion Street Cheese Market isn’t the only local business that offers kickbacks to customers who bring their own bags.

Whole Foods in River Forest offers its customers a dime discount for every one of their own bags they bring with them when they go shopping.

They sell basic canvas bags for a dollar, and Jackie Huxel of Elmwood Park said her bag has paid for itself since she got it.

“Even before I got those [Whole Foods cloth bags], I was recycling my bags,” bringing back paper bags from shopping trips past, Huxel said.

“I saw they were selling these, and so I bought them-my paper bags were getting old,” she said.

Jeanine Bergeron of Oak Park brought three of her own bags with her to Whole Foods last week.

“That [cloth] bag’s easy to put on the shoulder, but I also do it because of the environment,” Bergeron said, adding that she takes the bus to the grocery store.

Bergeron said she’s been bringing cloth bags with her to shop for about 20 years.

“I guess I’m just one of those 60s boomers that never gave up,” she said.

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Ben Meyerson

Ben was Wednesday Journal's crime, parks, and River Forest reporter, until he kept bugging us enough to promote him. Now he's managing two of Wednesday Journal's sister papers in the city, Chicago Journal...