Happy Earth Day! At our Co-op, we will be celebrating Earth Week Monday, April 16 through Sunday, April 22. During this celebratory week, our employee Green Team will be sharing their environmental tips and we will be spotlighting earth-friendly products through special displays, vendor demos, and sales. Our big celebration will be happening on Saturday, April 21. Join us for a clothing, book & media swap, cell phone, and battery recycling, workshops, poetry and music performance, face painting, bouncy house and a Member Appreciation Day which includes a 5% shopping discount for member-owners with an additional 5% savings on bulk food purchases. Click here for the full schedule of events.

We enjoy the annual celebration but of course, our environmental impact is a year-round concern. Sustainability is built into our co-op’s mission so we work to incorporate our environmental values through everything we do. Here are some examples:

• We are local. The Co-op does business with over 500 VT vendors meaning many of our products travel only a short distance from farm or kitchen to your table. Last year we sold 39,000 gallons of local milk and 54,000 pounds of apples and our receipts now help members track their local purchases, excluding produce.
• We emphasize organic. Last year 39% of co-op sales came from certified organic products, which are grown with environmentally-friendly practices.
• We reduce and reuse. Shopping at the Co-op means you have options: you can buy in bulk and skip the extra packaging, you can reuse your bags, cups and takeout containers and you can bring back bags and other reusables.
• We compost and recycle. Virtually all of our inedible food scraps are hauled to local composting facilities where they are they are turned in high-quality soils for planting. With our composting and recycling programs, 80% of our “waste” was diverted from the landfill last year.
• We are becoming more energy efficient. Thanks to improvements in our refrigeration and lighting, we have reduced our electrical usage 7% over the past four years, even as we serve more customers. Last year we installed a solar carport so that we now generate roughly 2% of our electrical needs from a renewable source.

For our efforts, our Co-op was named a Vermont Green Grocery Environmental Leader in 2016, the first year of that program which recognizes grocers for best practices in energy efficiency, water and waste reduction, recycling, environmentally preferable purchasing, and facility operations.

And of course, there is much more to do to make our cooperative a more sustainable enterprise. One of our greatest opportunities comes with our role as shoppers. According to a 2013 study by the US Department of Agriculture, at least 30% of the energy associated with our food is used at the household level, mainly from driving to and from the store, refrigerating perishables, preparation and throwing out unused food. 

Small changes in our individual behaviors offer the possibility of large impacts for a community of food consumers. Here are some principles of “going green” at the grocery store:

• To the extent that is feasible for your household, buy locally produced organic food.
• Avoid excessive packaging by shopping in bulk.
• Reuse containers and bags.
• Take care of your refrigerator and freezer: Defrost periodically, clean the air intake and make sure the unit is far enough from the wall to allow for good airflow.
• Consider the amount of meat in your diet and reduce if possible.
• Minimize food waste by only buying what you need.

Happy Earth Day!
Kari
Kari Bradley can be reached at karib@hungermountain.coop or directly at (802) 262-3219.