Co-ops Reduce Impact, Benefit Environment
Food co-ops have been looking for ways to reduce impact for decades—many co-ops were formed by communities that wanted to buy food grown without synthetic chemicals and get dry goods like flour, oats and rice in bulk to reduce packaging waste.
You can still buy organic and bulk goods at the food co-op, but in the era of climate change, co-ops continue to lead in new and inspiring ways to reduce their environmental impact and be better businesses and neighbors.
Vermont Co-op Drastically Reduces Refrigerant Emissions
The greenhouse gases that can escape due to industrial refrigeration leaks are thousands of times more destructive to the ozone layer than carbon dioxide. This is why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the GreenChill program, partnering with grocery stores across the country to reduce refrigeration emissions and improve their environmental impact. City Market/Onion River Co-op in Burlington, Vermont, takes environmental stewardship seriously. In 2016, they were one of five stores nationally to win a prestigious GreenChill award for Superior Goal Achievement, having exceeded the refrigerant emissions reduction goal they set for the year. City Market’s assistant director of operations credits routine preventative maintenance and the co-op leadership’s commitment to constant operational improvement for their success.
Washington Co-op Refuses to Waste Food
Reducing food waste is an important part of reducing landfill use for grocery retailers. The Port Townsend Food Co-op in Port Townsend, Washington, has developed creative solutions such as donating food that might otherwise be wasted to community organizations and composting food scraps with local farmers. These programs have important social and environmental impacts — feeding hungry families and preventing the production of harmful greenhouse gases. In 2015, the co-op donated over 14,000 pounds of food and composted 76,000 pounds of food scraps, detouring 562 cubic yards of waste from landfills and avoiding the creation of 37 tons of greenhouse gases.
Wisconsin Co-op Empowers Staff to Make a Difference Every Day
Outpost Natural Foods, which operates four stores and a market café in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin metro area, has committed to making sustainability an integral part of their co-op identity. “Sustainable Solutions” emerged as one of five strategic themes identified during a collective visioning process involving all co-op staff in 2012. With this mandate, the co-op has systematically built sustainability into the operations of every department, in every store. Staff are trained on department-specific preferred practices that result in the least environmental impact. The “co-op way of doing things” empowers staff to make a positive difference in all they do, every day.