Spotlight on: Cali-Kart

Spotlight on: Cali-Kart

Karen Allen and Scott Cummings, owners


Starting with countywide bans, the single-use plastic bag seemed like it was already on its way out the door in California. Now with the passage of  Proposition 67, it appears those bags are going the way of the dinosaur.

Now shoppers must carry groceries by hand, pay 10 cents for each paper bag used, or use something reusable. Entering the market for this third category is Scott and Karen Cummings, owners of Cali-Kart.

Cali-Kart started not only as a response to Proposition 67 but as a way to provide an alternative product for grocery shopping.

Instead of the standard reusable plastic bag, which can get messy when stored and hard to clean, the Santa Maria couple’s solution is a linen-coated crate that folds to the size of a children’s book. They call their product the next generation of reusable bags.

The epiphany for the product came after both Karen and Scott watched the film Plastic Paradise, which documents the massive field of man-made trash trapped in Pacific Ocean currents.

After doing a little research, they found that certain regions of the Northern Mediterranean banned plastic shopping bags in order to curb ocean pollution. And reusable plastic bags aren’t much better—or perhaps worse, Karen said, because they’re simply thicker versions of the single-use ones.

“It’s so important to use this tool [Cali-Kart] because we don’t want to contaminate the beaches and the oceans anymore,” Karen told the Sun.

Cali-Kart debuted in September and comes gray, burgundy, and blue. The product features pockets on either side to hold things like cell phones, grocery lists, coupons, etc.

They will debut a second product soon—a foldable version of the Cali-Kart for “wet” groceries, which is coated with plastic on the inside so it’s easier to clean. Karen said the Cali-Kart is the first of its kind to reduce the likelihood of cross-contamination.

Each crate is designed to hold roughly 40 pounds of groceries. Cali-Kart is available online, but they’re also sold in check-out aisles at grocery stores such as California Fresh and El Rancho Markets from Santa Ynez to San Luis Obispo. Soon, they’ll be available to purchase on Amazon, Karen said.

While the crates are a great alternative to plastic bags, there is one thing they can’t do: remind people to bring them into the grocery store. It’s a common dilemma, because when a shopper forgets, they can simply shell out some dimes for a few paper bags.

To remedy that, Scott said shoppers should think of the Cali-Kart as a tool. That’s the mindset Scott found succesful when he began testing the product at local grocery stores.

“It wasn’t just a bag,” Scott told the Sun. “It became a tool, an accessory.”

Their invention is a bit of departure from their current professions: Karen has more than two decades of experience as a pharmacist, and Scott works round-the-clock as a helicopter pilot who delivers personnel from shore to oil rigs and back.

Now that single-use plastic bags are banned in California, Scott expects to see shoppers with one or even two of the crates. Not just here, but in other states. With a product like Cali-Kart, Scott thinks the new plastic-bag ban proposition is almost moot.

“Californians have submitted their bag policy that the rest of the country will follow,” Scott said. “It’ll be a ubiquitous tool.”

Cali-Kart Inc. is located at 1126 Via Mavis in Santa Maria. For more information, visit, or call 478-5656.