Chicago's Plastic Bag Ban Means a Healthier Community and Environment


shopping mall

The City of Chicago's ban on disposable plastic bags went into effect earlier this month, prohibiting large chain stores in Chicago from providing customers with plastic bags for their purchases. The move is part of the city's efforts to be more environmentally responsible.


Some stores, however, are ignoring the spirit of the ordinance. They've found a loophole in the bag ban, and are providing customers with thicker plastic bags because the new ban states that plastic bags that can be used 125 times or more are acceptable.


"The idea here is not to simply replace the old plastic bag garbage with this new plastic bag garbage," 1st Ward Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno told the Chicago Tribune.


Those views align with the Raby Institute's environmental values. Staff here has never used plastic bags in the apothecary, Alma. Instead, they encourage patients to bring in reusable bags when purchasing vitamins or other holistic goods available. When people forget or don't have reusable bags with them, the apothecary provides small, paper bags.


"I believe in preserving our Earth, this place we call home and gives us so much," Dr. Raby says. "We must preserve what we can during our time here, leaving our home better off than when we arrived."


Dr. Raby's approach goes beyond the bags available in Alma. It impacted the choices she made in designing the Raby Institute's new offices last year.


"We recycled everything possible: carpet, flooring, wallpaper, lights, and furniture," Dr. Raby says.


The materials were either re-used directly or broken down to be used in new ways, such as old wallpaper becoming the glue that holds the new wallpaper. Additionally, all of the materials used in the process were VOC-free.


VOC stands for volatile organic compound. These chemicals are commonly found in paints, varnishes, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials, furnishings, and office equipment. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that VOCs can cause a variety of health issues, including:

  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Central nervous system damage
  • Cancer


Dr. Raby considered it crucial to avoid VOCs in building the new center. As with other integrative medicine providers at the Raby Institute, she pays close attention to the ties between environment and human health.


Additionally, instead of throwing away items that couldn't be recycled in the new space, the Raby Institute made generous donations to WINGS Metro, a 40-bed shelter for battered women and children in Chicago. WINGS received more than $60,000 in supplies from the Raby Institute-from sinks and wood to counter tops and glass panels.


For Dr. Raby, what may seem like small choices can result in big changes for the environment. Whether that means seeking out VOC-free products or remembering to bring re-usable bags with you when you shop, every bit helps.


After all, a healthy planet makes for healthy people. There's only one Earth, and it takes everyone changing their habits to keep it healthy.


"Dr. Raby is a very competent, very caring and very warm person."
- Raby Institute patient