Orcutt couple launch the Cali-Kart to fight plastic bag pollution

Orcutt couple launch the Cali-Kart to fight plastic bag pollution

After watching the documentary “Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” about the ravages of environmental damage caused by plastic bags, Karen Allen and her partner, Scott Cummings, were so disturbed that two weeks later they designed Cali-Kart, a reusable box that replaces single-use and reusable plastic bags.

“It is the next generation beyond plastic bags, a product designed for the earth-conscious consumer who believes it is a choice to move away from petroleum products that are contaminating and harming our oceans and beaches,” said Ms. Allen, 50, a pharmacist who lives in Orcutt with Mr. Cummings, 51, a private pilot.

“We learned in the documentary that since plastic is not biodegradable, it remains in the marine environment forever, breaking into smaller pieces that are toxic and ingested by our ecologically important wildlife, like sea turtles, fish and marine birds, and then enters the food chain that we rely on and consume.”

The Cali-Kart, which is made of sturdy canvas and measures 14 inches wide, 10 inches high and 10 inches deep, costs $12 and comes in three colors — khaki, royal blue and dark red.

“The solid reinforced bottom keeps groceries from spilling, and the box holds up to 30 pounds of goods or a full case of wine. There are two side pockets: one to personalize with a piece of art or a photo and the other to hold grocery lists, coupons or a cellphone,” said Ms. Allen.

The Cali-Gally, which costs $15, has all the benefits of the original Cali-Kart plus it is fully coated so it can be wiped out, making it the answer to the cross-contamination problem associated with reusable bags, according to Ms. Allen.

“It has gym bag-grade handles, which increase the gross weight to 45 pounds, and it also has photographs of California beaches to remind us why we continue to support the ban on all plastic.”

Although they are designed primarily for grocery shopping, Cali-Karts are a “great box for boating and travel, great for college dorm students because they fold and can be stored flat for tight quarters and great for small pets for car travel or sleep. Simply said, they’re a great organizational tool for a bunch of uses,” according to Ms. Allen, a Santa Barbara native who graduated from San Marcos High School in 1984, earned a bachelor’s degree in health sciences at Cal State Chico and another bachelor’s degree in pharmacy at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston.

Since 1994, she has been a pharmacist at various locations in Santa Barbara but resigned to make a full-time commitment to the Cali-Kart business.

Mr. Cummings, a native of Kingston, R.I., attended Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., until an Army recruiter lured him to flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala. He has been flying for 25 years as a helicopter and airline transport pilot.

Since launching Cali-Kart last year, the couple have sold more than 1,200 of the containers.

“This was better than we expected,” said Ms. Allen.

Cali-Karts are now available at the Santa Barbara Visitors Center and Gelson’s in Santa Barbara, El Rancho Market and Nielsen’s Market in Solvang and Spencer’s Fresh Markets in Santa Maria.

“We are very pleased that the voters in California have once again passed the single-use referendum Prop. 67. We are encouraged that 150 California cities and towns have already banned plastic bags on their own. As usual, what happens in California sets a precedent for the nation. We look forward to marketing Cali-Kart products across the nation regardless of plastic ban legislation,” said Ms. Allen. “Our motto is ‘Save Earth — Go Bagless!’ ”


Cali-Karts can be purchased at the Santa Barbara Visitors Center, 1 Garden St.; Gelson’s, 3305 State St.; El Rancho Market, 2886 Mission Drive in Solvang; Nielsen’s Market, 608 Alamo Pintado Road in Solvang; and Spencer’s Fresh Markets, 3580 Orcutt Road in Santa Maria.