This month, Bangkok's shopping elite took a small step towards combating global warming, starting, appropriately, in some of the capital's most luxurious, air-conditioned department stores.
In mid September, the Mall Group launched a green-friendly campaign at its eight department stores by switching from plastic bags to biodegradable bags.
AdvertisementFrom now on shoppers at The Mall's Gourmet Market outlets and swish department stores will be given the option of using a free biodegradable plastic bag or a reasonably-priced canvas tote bag to carry their goodies back to their parked BMWs and Mercedes Benzes.
The canvas bags will be either given away after a purchase of more than 500 baht ($14.50) or can be purchased for 70 to 399 baht ($2 to $11.50) depending on size.
The biodegradable plastic bags, made from a mixture of organic and plastic and guaranteed to disintegrate one and a half years after you've gotten your purchases home, are The Mall's small contribution to fighting global warming.
The group, which operates some of Bangkok's poshest department stores such as Emporium and Siam Paragon along with six malls, now uses an estimated 150 million plastic bags a year.
"The biodegradable bags cost 5 to 10 percent more than regular plastic bags," said Chamnarn Maythaprachakul, The Mall's senior vice president for marketing. "We will absorb that."
The group expects to spend 100 million baht ($2.9 million) on its bag campaign, which hopefully will become fashionable among Bangkok's plethora of competing department stores and supermarkets.
Meanwhile, the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) has launched a similar campaign, passing out 30,000 canvas bags to the shopping public to encourage them to say no to plastic.
The BMA bags, bearing the logo "Let's Make Bangkok Cool" are part of Bangkok governor Apirak Kosayothin's ambitious programme to reduce the capital's carbon emissions.
The metropolis accounts for more than 40 percent of the country's CO2 emissions, and each Bangkokian leaves a carbon footprint of 7.3 tonnes of CO2 per year, comparable to the citizens of London.
Apirak hopes to reduce Bangkokian's carbon footstep by one tonne by the year 2012, though a variety of campaigns including getting motorists to switch to bio-fuels, promoting energy-efficiency and growing more trees (there is only four square metres of green space per person in the city, home to about 10 million people.)
While it is generally accepted among serious global warming campaigners that the shopping bag strategy is a minor step, it is at least a step in the right direction, especially for the city's elite.
"The lifestyle of Bangkok's high society and upper middle class has to change, and the way they change can have an influence of the other sectors of society," said Tara Buakamsri, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace in Thailand.
"So the plastic bag campaign is a good start. We are moving towards the more difficult ones, such as reducing energy use in buildings and homes and cutting back on city travel. Those will require more self sacrifice," said Tara.