a word from the board

Rising to the Call of Spring…Hope and Renewal

I think about culture and meaning all the time.  It’s pretty much at the root of my life’s work.  As a Board Member of the Co-op and chair of our Communications Committee, I tap into those roots to consider how we as an organization strive to provide healthy living options to nourish our community’s bodies and souls.  Spring fills me with light – and it’s not just the longer days, it’s because we all rise up to greet each other with a little more energy and a little more warmth.   To me, it comes down to these smallest interactions, human to human, living being to living being. 

Of late I have been considering how we come to know the meaning of our place, our responsibilities, our safe havens.  How do we as a community open to love and acceptance, and inclusivity?  I am so proud of what I see happening all around me.  I see so many of us leaning towards hope and doing our best to avoid being trapped by the manufactured cynicism and fear that dominate what Donella Meadows called” the information sphere”.

As a Co-op, our culture is all about interdependence.  Member-owners rely upon the sound business practices of our management team and board of directors to bring us healthy choices because after all “food is the most important pharmaceutical we have,” according to neuroscientist Richard Davidson in a recent On Being Interview.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.  And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”   Dr. King’s “we” refers to humans, but what if adjust the meaning of “we” to be inclusive of all living beings?   I am truly grateful for the local families and individuals who farm in Vermont braving the elements and uncertainties to bring us local meats, vegetables, fruits, and even some grains.  What if we thanked not only the growers of our food, but the food itself for nourishing us as Robin Wall Kimmerer points out is done in her native traditions.

And this month brings us spring in the lunar calendar – the well of hope to be replenished.  It’s a reward for getting through the darkest hours in the northern hemisphere.  The days are getting longer, the sugar maple’s sap is rising from the root to sweeten our lives.  I am so very grateful for this time of year where I can stand up tall, reach for the sky and plant my feet deep into the ground – so that my sap can rise with that of our fellow being, the Sugar Maple Tree.

Nadine Canter Barnicle is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member

You’re Invited to Help Update Our By-Laws!

Last year, your Board of Directors updated its Governance Policies.  In the process, we noticed that our Co-op’s bylaws could use some updating too. Together with our General Manager, we worked to make our bylaws clearer, simpler, and even more consistent with our values and with the best practices of other food co-ops. (For example, our current bylaws do not allow for recent innovations like electronic voting.)

The process of updating our bylaws was aided by a recently developed set of bylaws provided by our long-time consultants at Cooperative Development Services (CDS). This resulted in a set of proposed bylaws with the same basic meaning but written in clearer and more concise language. At the same time, we made a handful of additions and deletions and wanted to share them with you in advance of presenting the new bylaws for your approval in May.  Please read through the new proposed draft bylaws and send along your feedback to glennlower@middlebury.coop.  For your reference, the old bylaws are posted here.   We would love to have your feedback by March 24th.  We’ll include a final draft in the Annual Report and a ballot for voting on them. Here’s a list of significant proposed changes:

  • Allow for electronic voting as a convenient way to increase participation in the democratic process.
  • Add language to allow for runoff elections in the event of a tie (rather than the Board choosing between the tied candidates, as is currently written).
  • Provide language for reconciling the membership records for shareholders who have abandoned shares in the co-op. The three-year cut off for membership being inactive is a VT state law.
  • As our co-op has grown to over 5,000 member-owners, our goal is to reduce the required signatures for petitioning a special meeting, from 10% to “5% of the total number of member-owners or 200 member-owners, whichever is less.”
  • Add “employees and spouses or family members of employees may not serve as a Director.” Peer co-ops point out the inherent conflict of interest due to employee board members being the employer of the GM who is also their employer.
  • Remove “member-owners shall also be permitted to contribute services for additional discounts and other entitlements as determined by the Board.” Our goal is to continue the practice of member-working as long as possible, but remove it from the bylaws to allow flexibility in the future.
  • Remove “goods and services at the lowest possible cost”. It is our goal to provide the fairest prices possible to both members and customers, while also balancing other factors such as a fair price to farmers/producers, and fair compensation for employees, all while keeping the co-op financially sustainable.
  • Remove “non-profit”, because the Co-op is technically not a 501c3 non-profit. This language was from an earlier era and does not currently legally apply. The Co-op does make a profit (about 2%) most years, pays taxes on those profits and uses them to build a better community.

We’ve also planned a couple of open meetings to give you the opportunity to share your feedback with us in person.  The dates and locations of these meetings are as follows:

  • Sunday, Mar.17 at 9:00 am…cafe seating area. 
  • Sunday, Mar. 24 at 9:00 am… cafe seating area. 
RSVP is not required but would be helpful to glennlower@middlebury.coop

Cooperatively Yours,

The MNFC Leadership Team, General Manager Glenn Lower,  Board of Directors: R.J. Adler, Molly Anderson, Nadine Barnicle, Ilaria Brancoli Busdraghi, Lynn Dunton, Sophie Esser Calvi, Kate Gridley, Ann LaFiandra, Tam Stewart, Louise Vojtisek, and Amanda Warren


Flowing with the Darkness – Staying Well in the Yin Season

The winter solstice this month marks the return of spring – a movement toward light and growth.  We can use that returning light and growth, the rising Yang, to persevere in our own personal paths of truthfulness.  The Co-op Buying Criteria is a treasure that assures the products on the shelves in the store contribute to our personal wellness and do no harm to the environment.  Many of us are thinking about resolutions and new beginnings as we get through the frenzy of December, intending to establish our own set of criteria to help us make decisions for ourselves and our families that support our health and well-being. How can we create new and better habits to improve how we nourish our bodies and our minds?  How can we sustain the challenges our national politics continue to throw our way that are the opposite of nourishing?   

It is not uncommon these days to be in the Wellness section of the Co-op and hear the Wellness staff being asked for help with the growing options of products.  Member-owners ask, “Can I take that cream on a plane?”,  “How do I use this herb?”,  “What can I expect from these products?”,   “Will it help my….?”.  Talk about complex!  I, Nadine, admit to eavesdropping on some of these Q&A sessions, along with asking my own.  I even piped up to answer a question once, “Yes, I have friends who have taken CBD creams on airplanes, in checked bags, buried in socks.”  Hopefully, that member-owner did her own research before getting on the plane!  

As I worried about possibly sending someone to jail, it made me consider how we rely upon Glenn and the entire Co-op staff to do their research to support us, the member-owners and other customers.  They work to keep up with the latest trends in health and nutrition.  While they are certainly guided by our food buying criteria, they have to be able to sift through information and determine what trends are sustainable and worth marketing/selling at the Co-op.  Many products and services “claim” to be a solution, but since we are all so different, an herb that might work for me, might not work for the next person who pauses in the aisle wondering what product will help with a muscle ache. For instance, in my family, arnica works super well for my daughter, but I seem to have a mild allergy to it.  There are trends and fads in the Wellness arena and we count on the Co-op staff to do their homework so we can confidently pick the right herbal formula to help our kids’ earache or our achy joints.

The darkness of winter time is naturally a time to go inward, Yin. By nature, we must stay inside longer which can be challenging. This is a difficult time for many who do not enjoy cold weather activities or that lack of sun. I, Sophie, for one, struggle with this. Growing up in California did not build my skin for dark cold winters. Yet, after 7 winters, I embrace my winter wellness routine. The Co-op has definitely been a big part of supporting that. Knowing I can trust the products and the advice from the Wellness Department folks or get advice on how to make bone broth while I’m checking out has been a gift.

We have both found that our winter wellbeing, much of which was advised to us from our different practitioners, Nadine’s Chinese medicine team and Sophie’s naturopathic doctor and herbalist, includes similar practices.  To thrive in the winter, Sophie takes a high daily dose of vitamin D, which as many of us know comes from the sun which we are lacking in the winter.  We both suffered from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) for many winters; struggling because neither of us knew what to do. Not knowing the other one during these years, we found out we both spent the past years talking to a lot of folks and changed our practices so that now each of us welcomes the seasonal change, finding joy in the cold and darkness.  We both use teas, Epsom salt baths with essential oils, ayurvedic abhyanga massage, saunas with essential oils such as tar, vetiver, and eucalyptus.  And there are all those other winter comforts labeled by Scandinavians as Hygge – candles, soups, longer nights of rest, baking, etc.

We hope you are snuggled in somewhere cozy, sipping tea by a fire, cultivating your own wellness.  Happy Solstice!

Nadine Canter Barnicle and Sophie Esser Calvi are both members of our Co-op Board of Directors

Considering our Board of Directors Elections Processes – Can We Improve?

In September, three members of MNFC’s Board of Directors, Lyn Dunton, Kate Gridley, and Ann LaFiandra, attended a Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) peer gathering in White River Junction, VT.  Folks, mostly directors and a few staff, from the following coops across New England attended: Brattleboro Food Co-op (VT), Buffalo Mountain Co-op (VT), City Market/Onion River Co-op (VT), Co-op Food Stores (NH), Fiddleheads Food Co-op (CT),Franklin Community Co-op (MA), Greenstar Co-op Market (NY), High Falls Food Co-op (NY), Hunger Mountain Food Co-op (VT), Littleton Food Co-op (NH),  Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op (VT), Monadnock Food Co-op (MA), Neighboring Food Co-ops (MA), Portland Food Co-op (ME), Putney Food Co-op (VT), River Valley Food Co-op (MA), Rutland Area Food Co-op (VT), Springfield Co-op (VT), Stone Valley Community Market (VT), Upper Valley Food Co-op (VT) and Willimantic Food Co-op (CT).  Our topics of the day were: Member Engagement Strategies, Successful Board Recruitment and Retention Strategies, and The Challenges and Rewards of Diversity and Inclusion.

MNFC stands alone in not only having a fully filled Board of Directors, but every year for the past several election cycles, we have had 7 – 10 outstanding candidates run for the scheduled open slots (terms at MNFC are three years, and with an 11- member board, 3 or 4 terms are up in each election cycle). To our amazement, we learned that there are co-ops whose boards are not fully staffed, and there are election cycles in which there are no candidates!  We also learned that many co-ops have embraced electronic voting – which has upped the percentage of members who participate in voting –and many co-ops have looked hard at their election processes.

  • We are looking at our election processes as part of our board work for 2018- 2019.  We’ll consider the following questions:
  • What does it mean to be a board member?
  • What kinds of decisions does the board make, what is the time commitment?
  • Who is NOT running for our board? Why not?
  • What are the barriers to running for the board?
  • How can we best orient future candidates so that they understand the job they are running for?
  • Facing a large slate of candidates, what will help our member-owners make decisions when casting their votes?
  • How do our member-owners know if a candidate is qualified?
  • How can we best present the slate of candidates?
  • Should we sponsor a Meet the Candidates Mixer?
  • How can we enhance the voting process to ensure more member-owner participation?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of moving to an electronic voting system

What Else Should We Consider?

I want to remind our member-owners that our Board of Directors meetings, 6:30 – 8:30 on the fourth Wednesday of every month, are open to you.  We want our processes to be transparent and we want to know what you are hearing and what you are thinking.  Member-Owner: this is a beautiful word. MNFC is owned by you, it’s members.   And the work of the Board, using Policy Governance (which is simply an operating system), is to act and make decisions on behalf of and in the best interest of the member-owners. Perhaps this work interests you? Please let us know!  To reach out to the board, contact us at board@middlebury.coop.

Kate Gridley is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member

Reducing Waste – Avoiding Plastic, Not So Easy

We on the MNFC board have been discussing plastics.  Yes, plastics  – does anyone remember The Graduate, or am I just dating myself?  Anyway, these discussions are in response to the answers from the leading suggestion in our annual meeting survey:  Reduce plastic waste (i.e. minimize packaging & encourage reusable bags).  Greg Prescott, our store Operations Manager, wrote an excellent letter in the August electronic newsletter on this topic: The Trashy Truth About Compostables.

One of the biggest culprits in our use of plastic both operationally and by member-owners and other customers is the plastic bags provided in the bulk and produce department. We go through around 20,000 bags per month. These bags are for anyone to take and fill with our wonderful bulk foods or produce. The problem is not many people seem to bring back their plastic bag for reuse.  The bulk department is designed around reducing our packaging footprint, but there is an environmental cost to using all this plastic in lieu of other packaging.  

In addition, the Co-op uses many plastic bags to prepackage bulk for customer convenience. The bulk department could consider switching to a plastic recyclable clamshell but this has potentially negative consequences including an increase in costs.  We can’t just stop offering plastic bags for customers in bulk and in produce, but we all can reduce what we use personally.  

There are ways that we all, as customers, can help reduce this plastic use.  We can bring own containers and/or pick up a mason jar now sold right in the store for $1.  Another alternative that is provided by the Co-op is to use the recyclable paper bags for bulk items and then transfer the food into the proper container when you get home.  You can find reusable drawstring Produce Bags for sale in the Produce Department, and at the registers.  

And then there is the checkout – we should ALL be using re-usable grocery bags or cartons to avoid taking paper bags to further reduce our waste footprint – there is a cost to recycling those bags.  You can bring in any reusable bag that works for you, and there are a variety of types of reusable bags available for purchase near the Co-op registers, too.  If you happen to forget your bags, we try to keep a stock of sturdy cardboard boxes available as paper bag alternatives.

Do you have a tip to share for how to remember to bring your grocery bags?  And have you tried the reusable to go containers at the salad and hot bar?  What do you think?  We’d love to hear from you.

As fellow board member R.J. Adler suggested in his Summer 2018 newsletter article, try to avoid buying or using any plastic the next time you shop – “It’s an eye-opening experience.”


In other Board of Directors news, various board members are attending three workshops this fall.  The workshops include a Peer Network Training hosted by The Neighboring Food Co-op Association at Upper Valley Food Coop in White River Junction that took place September 15. At that workshop, Coops met to share information to support each other.  On October 13 the NCFA will be co-hosting a “Co-op Café” with CDS (Cooperative Development Services) entitled “Expanding the Vision of ‘We’”. And then in November, a networking event is planned to address unconscious bias.  If anyone is interested in what we have learned at these workshops, please send an email to board@middlebury.coop and we’ll be happy to share!

Ann LaFiandra is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member


Why Equity is at the Heart of Food System Transformation

People shop at the food co-op for all sorts of reasons – for bulk teas and spices, or the freshest possible ingredients for a special dinner, or maybe to support local farmers and food businesses, or to find a wide assortment of organic food to avoid feeding your family pesticide residues with their meals. Many of us shopping at the co-op are aware that our US food system has some deep problems, and we want to be part of a solution. We read about farmworkers dying from heat exhaustion in California, after making a long and dangerous trek to reach a job in the United States. We read about food deserts and gross disparities in health outcomes for populations in areas without good access to healthy food. We read about the growing dangers of antibiotic resistance to serious diseases — a problem that the World Health Organization tells us is comparable to climate change in its impacts on human health and caused in large part by feeding antibiotics to livestock to make them grow faster. These are all side-effects of ‘business as usual’ in our food system and a result of buying food at the cheapest possible price from all over the world regardless of how it was grown and by whom.
Participating in a member-owned food business that operates on cooperative principles is an important alternative to ‘business as usual’.

The co-op’s structure allows member-owners to have a say in what we buy and how the profits are distributed. Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op has been a great community partner by sponsoring or contributing to food access programs and events to raise awareness of healthier eating. But are we really addressing inequity? And why is that important?

Inequity, in contrast to inequality, is systematic exclusion from opportunities that would allow equitable outcomes. The US food system is founded upon and continues to be supported by exploitation – of the natural environment and people with little political power.

Our country was stolen from Native Americans, leaving a shameful legacy of broken treaties and people living on reservations with the highest prevalence of diabetes in the country. Much of US wealth was built on the labor of cruelly enslaved peoples, Native American and African, who even now have not been able to access a fair share of that wealth. Wealth is rapidly trickling up — or more accurately, flooding up — to the wealthiest people, with only three people in the US now controlling more wealth than the bottom 50%, according to Forbes Magazine. Through our foreign policies and trade agreements, we continue to exploit people and resources in other countries so that US citizens can enjoy exotic foods and items we consider staples year-round, although we can’t produce them on US land (coffee, tea, and spices, to say nothing about our insatiable demand for petroleum). Through our ‘cheap food’ policy, designed to prevent urban populations from revolting, we continue to exploit farmers and indirectly farmworkers who make wages far below the poverty threshold.

A common reaction among relatively well-educated people in the US is to buy food certified to be organic, eco-labeled in some other way (e.g., Marine Stewardship Council seafood) Fair Trade (international or domestic) or humanely raised. But we can’t buy our way to equity; and as long as racial and financial inequity persists in the food system, we are feeding ourselves on stolen labor and resources.

So how can we work toward greater food system equity? This merits a larger community conversation, and conversations about climate justice and farming issues in Addison County are a good start. Equity will require enabling real participation of everyone in making and implementing decisions about our food, and seizing control away from wealth-mongers, Big Food and Big Ag—agribusinesses that are far more concerned about a steady flow of profits than a steady increase in public health and ecological integrity. It will mean each of us developing more awareness of the ways that our own well-being comes at the expense of other people’s quality of life. It will mean not only buying good food, in a place like the coop where our purchases benefit our community, but participating in political forums to get money out of politics at every level and to fight for policies that provide the privileges of health and political voice enjoyed by the well-to-do to the least advantaged in our society.

And to ‘put the last first’ over and over, until our society is no longer marked by huge disparities in wealth, health, and political power – Molly Anderson

Molly Anderson is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member


The Right to Food in the United States –  What can we do on the local level?

It’s time for the United States to support the human right to food.  Every person must have access to safe, nutritious, and adequate food obtained in dignified ways to be healthy and have an adequate standard of living. Our federal government should commit to respect, protect and fulfill the right to adequate food and nutrition, as almost every other country in the world has done. Recent assaults on federal food assistance by our government have stirred public outrage, as well as resistance from more moderate members of Congress.  But the problem goes deeper than threats to food access in the current administration – the solutions need to be made comprehensive and accessible.

United States opposition to the right to adequate food and nutrition (RtFN) has endured through Democratic and Republican administrations.  Nevertheless, post-World War II bipartisan programs in support of food and economic security were greatly improving hunger and poverty until they were reversed in the early 1980s. Combined federal and private food assistance cobbled together since that time has not been adequate to prevent steady or rising hunger and food insecurity in the U.S. on national and local levels.  In Vermont, the latest available data (2013-2015 average) tell us that 6.3% of households had low food security (reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet) and 5.1% had very low food security (reduced food quantity or disrupted eating patterns because of not having enough money or resources). This problem is especially serious in households with children:  nearly 1 in 5 children in Vermont doesn’t have regular access to enough food for a healthy, active lifestyle.

We shouldn’t be surprised: private charitable food assistance, such as food banks and pantries, and government food assistance such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and WIC cannot end hunger and food insecurity.  These programs do not address the root causes of food insecurity such as racism, falling real wages, and rising inequality in income and assets. People at the front lines of hunger and food insecurity do not participate in the design and implementation of US programs.  Nor do these programs respond to chronic food insecurity by building robust, diversified, sustainable, and decentralized food economies. There is no popularly conceived, comprehensive plan in the U.S. with measurable benchmarks to assess the success or failures of the present approach. Therefore, our capacity to hold government actors accountable to progressively improving food and nutrition status is ultimately constrained.  All of these actions are part of putting the RtFN in action.  Countries endorsing the RtFN and taking steps to make it real (e.g., Brazil, France, all Scandinavian countries, Eastern European countries, Japan) have a lower prevalence of moderate and severe food insecurity than the US, even when their GDP is much lower than the US.  For a look at how U.S. food security is broken down geographically, please click on the graphic, below:

Although nobody expects action at the federal level anytime soon, support may be feasible at town, city and state levels. Democratic action is often most effective and possible when people know and encounter each other regularly, and can hold each other accountable. Middlebury and Vermont could support the RtFN, even without federal action, in many ways.  We could look for guidance to many other places around the world that have created programs in line with the RtFN, then develop a plan for eliminating hunger and food insecurity that could be a model for other cities and states.

To find out more about the state of food security in the U.S., please see the following resources.

USDA Economic Research Service

Hunger Free Vermont

Molly Anderson is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member.



More Than Just Free Flatbread

While the flatbreads and endless bowls of salad at American Flatbread are a delicious perk of attending the Co-op’s annual meeting, this event is so much more than a free meal! The Annual Meeting makes our Ends Statements–1) Healthy Foods 2) Vibrant Local Economy 3) Environmentally Sustainable and Energy Efficient Practices 4) Co-operative Democratic Ownership 5) Learning About These Values–come alive for an evening of celebration and community.

Our Annual Meeting is an essential component of practicing co-operative democratic ownership and a unique time to learn about the Co-op, two of our Ends Statements. Each year, our General Manager, Glenn, makes an honest presentation about the successes and challenges of the year, and the Board Treasurer presents a financial summary. The highlight of these presentations was learning that we are able to offer a patronage dividend to Member-Owners this year! We anticipated that it would be up to two years post-expansion before there would be patronage dividends, so this was an exciting surprise. Another highlight of the evening was a brief survey we developed as a board to ask all member-owners what initiatives they’d like to see us pursue now that the expansion is behind us. Thanks to everyone who took the time to tell us what you think.  We’ll report more on those results soon!

The Annual Meeting is a great time to learn more about the Co-op and make sure your voice is heard.  We welcome questions and comments, anytime, but especially at this annual event.  This year more than 200 people attended on a particularly sunny and beautiful evening.

Hosting this important gathering at American Flatbread is significant and representative of the ends: 1) Healthy Foods 2) Vibrant Local Economy and 3) Environmentally Sustainable and Energy Efficient Practices. American Flatbread’s flatbreads and salads are nourishing foods, made from the highest quality ingredients, most of which are local, organic, or both. American Flatbread is a perfect example of how all foods–when prepared mindfully and intentionally–can be part of a healthy diet. Finally, it’s a joy for the Co-op to be able to support our Vibrant Local Economy by allocating our Annual Meeting funds to a local restaurant.

What would our world be like if all businesses put as much thoughtful energy into creating an annual meeting for their customers? What would our world be like if all businesses were as transparent and open to feedback? If you have never been to an Annual Meeting, make sure to put it on your calendar for next year. We are truly lucky to have the Co-op in our community, and the Annual Meeting is a yearly celebration of this fact. Of course, we can’t deny that the pizza is delicious, as well!

Amanda Warren is a member of our Co-op Board of Directors

Our Food Waste Practices – Keeping Up with Our Ends and Meeting the New Law

As my hero Jim Henson anthropomorphized through his alter ego Kermit, “It’s not easy being green.”  That is unless you are the Co-op with a staff, management team and board who aim to be “green” every day.  This means having systems and practices in place that nourish and protect our bodies and the earth.  Not an easy thing to do when you are a business that deals in perishables and foods with shelf lives. I was fortunate to work with 16 Middlebury College seniors this past fall in the Environmental Studies Community-Engaged Practicum (ES401).  We studied Climate Change and Solid Waste in Vermont and beyond by evaluating the goals and impacts of implementing Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law (ACT 148).  Much of this article borrows from the research these students conducted.

Act 148 was passed in 2012 to increase diversion rates of solid waste into recycling programs keeping recyclables and organic materials out of landfills.  Aside from being difficult to site, landfills are also some of the largest sources of greenhouse gases. The law requires that Vermonters divert all compost and recycling from landfills.  The law prioritizes alternative food waste options, encouraging donation, composting, feeding livestock and converting to energy with the goal of re-conceptualizing how we manage and think about food waste – it as a resource, not waste.  The restructuring of the waste system through Act 148 is being implemented in stages. Initially, the law applied only to large producers of waste, but smaller producers are being phased in year by year, requiring proper sorting of trash, recyclables, and compostables down to the household level.

Our Co-op will need to be in compliance with Act 148 by July 2020.  As I looked into how we are preparing for this new law, it turns out we are way ahead of the game.  You see, in 2017 we donated perfectly good food (12,619 pounds to be precise) that we could not sell to the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO).  And, that is not all –  food that cannot be donated goes to compost. This compost is primarily picked up by area pig and poultry farmers, but we also have Casella check once a week for any remaining compost unclaimed by farmers.  We generate approximately 82,125 lbs/year of post-consumer scraps as compost which come mostly from the Produce department, the deli kitchen, some from Bulk, and also from the compost bin near the cafe where customers deposit their lunch scraps. All recyclables and food scraps produced and disposed of by the Co-op are already being properly sorted and leave our site free of cross-contamination between trash, recycling, and food scraps.

On a larger scale, the diversion of food scraps from landfills is important in reducing the methane emissions produced by Vermont. The environmental impact of food waste is of a high magnitude; “if global food waste was a country, its carbon footprint would rank third, behind only China and the U.S.” (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2013).  Greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the decomposition of organic wastes such as food scraps in landfills are a contributing factor to climate change. In landfills, the decomposition of food, the single largest component of municipal solid waste reaching our landfills in the United States, accounts for 23% of all methane production in the country (Gunders, 2012). The anaerobic decomposition that happens when organic materials are placed into landfills produces the methane, a greenhouse gas with an effect approximately 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide (CalRecycle, 2013). Their organic nature and high moisture content cause food scraps to decompose faster than other material in the landfills. As a result of the rapid decomposition, the methane is often released before landfills are capped, directly releasing it into the atmosphere without any opportunity for capture (Gunders, 2012). Diverting the materials that are a primary source of methane production would work to reduce the harmful environmental effects of the landfills.

Perhaps Kermit (aka Jim Henson) didn’t quite have it right – we can look to the leadership of the Co-op and say it can be “easy being green.”

Please note the primary source for much of this article appears in:  “Middlebury Union High School Food Waste Recovery Initiative Final Report.” Middlebury College Environmental Studies Program, ENVS0401B, Fall 2017.

Nadine Barnicle is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member