Greetings from the Co-op. I hope you are enjoying April and the sunshine. As I write this, my neighbors are boiling the last of their sap and our rhubarb is just starting to emerge. We made it!
This April, we are celebrating Earth Month. This includes daily specials in our bulk foods department, a wide variety of workshops focused on environmental topics, and Sustainability Saturday on April 27, with a book and clothing swap, among other events. Environmental impacts are on many members’ minds and we have been fielding questions, ideas, and concerns about energy, recycling, and waste reduction. Our Co-op has been working in these areas for some time and you can find a list of our current initiatives and programs here. We will continue to develop these in order to minimize the impact of our operations.
At the same time, there are important steps we can all make to reduce our footprint when it comes to buying groceries. Here is a summary of green shopping tips, big and small:
- Sign up for e-reciepts.
- Reuse bags, part 1. The carry-out shopping bag is one of the most visible impacts of shopping. Our state government is currently preparing legislation that will ban plastic shopping bags and place a fee for new paper bags to incentivize reuse. Our Co-op has never offered plastic but we do distribute thousands of paper shopping bags each year. We currently offer a 5-cent donation to the Montpelier Food Pantry for every reusable bag (or box) you bring in and reuse has been increasing more than 15% over last year in recent weeks. We can all help save energy, reduce waste, and prepare for a future without single-use bags by getting in the habit of bringing our own. Find out about our new Co-op branded reusable bags here.
- Reuse bags, part 2. There is also a lot of interest in reducing our reliance on the plastic film bags used for produce and bulk foods. You are encouraged to reuse older plastic bags or bring a reusable container from home. While the corn-based Bio-bag have drawbacks, we are planning to offer more of the poly-mesh reusable bags. Remembering to bring these bags is another new shopping behavior we will all need to learn, but it promises to be an important next step in waste reduction.
- Try an Eco-container. Ask our Deli staff about reusable containers for take-out from our food bar. Dining in is another great way to avoid to-go packaging.
- Bring in your reusable cup for ten cents off your coffee or other hot beverages.
- Bring us your paper shopping bags and egg cartons (not Styrofoam) which can be left in the exit way bins for recycling and reuse.
- Bring us your bottle caps, bread clips, twist ties, corks, and batteries to our customer service desk. We take these items to Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District’s Additional Recyclables Collection Center.
- Minimize food waste. One study showed that we consumers are directly responsible for nearly a third of the energy that goes into producing our food and a large portion of that is associated with food we throw out uneaten.
Ultimately, what we buy has perhaps the biggest impact. It’s estimated that the global food system is responsible for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, and transportation and packaging are relatively small portions of the total. Calorie-dense foods like meat and dairy products are known to require large amounts of inputs and have an outsized impact. Choosing local and organic are important alternatives. In the end, we each have to decide what we can and are willing to do to reduce our environmental impact while feeding ourselves and our families.
See you in the aisles,
Kari Bradley, General Manager