Our Co-op exists to create and sustain a vibrant community of healthy individuals, sustainable local food systems, and thriving cooperative commerce. None of those goals can be fully separated from our natural environment or the impacts on it caused by everything we do. Achieving any part of our mission includes sustaining that natural environment in some way, and the environmental returns which are among our ends policies are just as important as the economic and social returns.
We gauge our environmental returns in a number of ways and by tracking a variety of metrics. For example, in the fiscal year 2018, our co-op emitted 227 tons of CO2, down 10.1% from the previous year; our solar carport generated 13.4 kWh, 2.1% of our total usage, in its first full year of use; we had $9.9 million in local product sales; we diverted 77% of our waste to composting and recycling streams; and the Co-op experienced no perceptible refrigerant leaks, which are a contributor to greenhouse gasses.
Those are just a few of our recent successes as we continue to strive for less waste, potentially even zero waste, and the smallest environmental impact possible. We do this every day in a wide variety of ways.
- The plastic used to wrap cases of product is just one item recycled by the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District’s Additional Recyclables Collection Center ARCC, along with plastic wrappers, bottle caps, twist ties, bread clips, and miscellaneous packaging materials.
- Compostable materials from the staff breakroom, prepared foods department, and produce department are hauled away by Grow Compost of Vermont. They either compost it at their facility or take it to Vermont Compost Company.
- Our newest composting initiative is paper towels being diverted from the waste stream and composted instead. There are now bins in the staff bathrooms, the breakroom, and the produce department for brown paper towels which are also composted by Grow.
- We recycle our bulk coffee and herb bags through TerraCycle’s zero waste program. They also offer free recycling opportunities our customers can take advantage of, including products from Burt’s Bees, Colgate, Gillette, Febreze, Brita, Late July and more.
- All cardboard is recycled by Casella. They also collect all of our paper recycling as well as #1-7 plastic recycling.
- Packaging materials are provided to vendors so they can reuse them, such as bubble wrap and packing peanuts. Wax boxes from produce are reused by farmers, vendors, and community partners, such as Community Harvest of Central Vermont, who uses them for their gleaning program.
- Future recycling initiatives that are currently being discussed include recycling cigarette butts and recycling vinyl gloves that are used by staff in the kitchen.
- Our carport in the customer parking lot has solar panels and an EV station for customers to charge their electric vehicles. The solar panels generate energy which is returned directly back into the grid, and the Co-op gets a credit which is applied to our electric bill. We hope to invest further in solar in the future.
- We recently changed out the majority of the building’s fluorescent lights, switching to LEDs, which reduced our electricity needs.
- The building’s refrigeration system has a variable frequency drive which helps make it run more efficiently. This drive causes the system to start and stop more evenly, so there is less of an energy draw when it powers up or down.
- Night covers are used on almost all of the coolers in the store, keeping the cold air contained and making the coolers more efficient. There is a plan in place to replace the egg cooler with a new one with doors on it, improving its energy efficiency.
- A new HVAC system is being installed in May 2019 which will be much more energy efficient.
- A new, energy efficient dishwashing machine was recently installed in the dish station that is also more water efficient.
- Coolers continue to be replaced and upgraded. When they are, we choose the most energy efficient option possible.
- Staff training often include discussions of ways for staff to be more eco-friendly and environmentally responsible.
- Staff are asked to turn off their lights at their desks at the end of the day and are encouraged to turn off their monitors as well.
- We have a Green Team, which is a committee of staff members who spearhead and facilitate internal environmental initiatives such as the recycling programs mentioned above.
- Our buyers prioritize locally produced products and also investigate the environmental impacts of products we sell, favoring those that are eco-friendly, environmentally responsible, or produced using sustainable methods.