Co-op Impact

Celebrate Earth Day!

Earth Day is Thursday, April 22, marking the 51st anniversary of the very first Earth Day celebration in 1970! According to, 20 million Americans (representing 10% of the total population of the United States at that time) took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums on that first Earth Day to advocate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Earth Day celebrations have continued to grow in scope and magnitude since that day in 1970 as the awareness of climate change and the dire need for environmental advocacy has become ever more apparent. 

Food co-ops have been looking for ways to reduce environmental impact for decades. In fact, many co-ops were formed by people who wanted access to healthy, delicious food with reduced environmental impact and less waste, and co-ops continue to lead on these issues today. You help co-ops continue this proud tradition every time you choose to shop at one, invest in ownership, or tell a friend about your local food co-op. Here are a few of the ways that co-ops support healthier patterns of production and consumption:

Supporting Local Farmers & Producers

Local products at food co-ops around the country average 21% of total co-op sales, compared with a national grocery store average of just 1.8%. Here at your Co-op, we’re extremely proud to report that 34% of our sales come from local products, thanks to our partnerships with more than 400 local farmers and food producers! Supporting these local farmers and producers with your food dollars helps to decrease environmental impact by reducing the fossil fuel consumption and air pollution associated with transporting foods over long distances. At the average chain supermarket, most of the food items you buy travel over 1500 miles to reach your plate via lengthy truck and plane trips. This not only causes massive fuel consumption and pollution but also involves the need for packing and shipping facilities and refrigeration throughout the supply chain, consuming vast amounts of energy. The more food miles collected during food transportation, the more fossil fuels are burned, allowing more harmful greenhouse gas emissions to be released into the atmosphere.


Supporting Organic

Nationwide, co-op shoppers demonstrate an inspiring commitment to the environment, with organic sales at co-ops totaling over $415 million annually. Organic farming methods have been scientifically validated  as being not only more sustainable but a potential answer to some of our most pressing environmental problems. On average more than 33% of the products co-ops carry are USDA Certified Organic and represent 42% of a co-op’s total sales, compared with a national grocery store average of just 5%. Certified organic food by law cannot be grown using toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or GMO seeds. Beyond the benefit to individual shoppers is the positive impact organic agriculture has on natural systems. Organic methods are supportive of all levels of life from soil microbes to pollinators to the health of farmworkers in the fields.


Tackling Food Waste

Spoilage is a perennial challenge for the food industry. Diverting food from the landfill is the key, and co-ops tackle that through donations to food pantries, composting, and better utilization of cooking scraps. Nationally, the average food co-op is donating 24,100 pounds of healthy, edible food to food pantries annually, with a total of more than 1.5 million pounds of food donated in 2016 alone. Similarly-sized conventional grocery stores divert an average of 12,500 pounds, about half of what co-ops do. Here at your Co-op, food waste reduction is a particular passion and we’re proud to have donated over 6,500 pounds of food to our local food shelves last year. Non-marketable foods that are not fit for human consumption are passed along to local farmers who pick up our compost regularly to feed their animals. The remaining food scraps that aren’t fit for animal consumption (coffee grounds, meat scraps, etc.) are picked up by Casella Waste Management and become compost. These practices support our planet by reducing the significant greenhouse gas emissions associated with food scraps entering a landfill and by making the most of the energy expenditure that went into producing those food items in the first place. 

Promoting Reuse and Recycling

According to a 2012 Impact Study, co-ops recycle 96 percent of cardboard, 74 percent of food waste, and 81 percent of plastics compared to 91 percent, 36 percent, and 29 percent, respectively, recycled by conventional grocers. Your Co-op understands that recycling isn’t the panacea we all once believed it to be, so we’ve doubled down on our efforts to reuse and upcycle as many items as possible. We dedicated the Spring 2019 and Spring 2020 issues of our Under the Sun newsletter to this important topic, complete with a map in the 2019 edition centerfold highlighting all of the items throughout the store that are reused either by local farmers and producers (apple crates, delivery boxes, maple syrup buckets, and honey buckets) or by customers (spice scoops, egg cartons, product delivery boxes, etc.). We also installed a cardboard bailer to allow us to minimize the number of trips required by Casella to pick up our recycled cardboard and we’re constantly exploring new ways to offer products without packaging. 

Supporting Sustainable Infrastructure

Buildings have direct environmental impacts, ranging from the use of raw materials for their construction and renovation to the consumption of natural resources, like water and fossil fuels, and the emission of harmful substances. When your Co-op expanded in 2017, significant efforts were made to minimize the environmental impact of the physical store. We prioritized the integrity of the building “envelope” to ensure a high level of control over indoor air quality, temperature, humidity levels, and energy consumption. We also made every effort to use sustainable building materials, installed LED and solar lighting throughout the building and parking lot, and integrated hyper-efficient refrigeration systems. The efficiency of refrigeration systems has a critical impact on a store’s carbon footprint, as refrigeration can account for as much as a third of a typical grocery store’s electricity usage and the refrigerants used in refrigeration systems have a greenhouse warming potential many thousand times that of carbon dioxide. Therefore, reducing refrigerant leaks and carefully maintaining refrigeration systems can have a significant impact. 

While we truly believe Earth Day should be celebrated every day, we love having a specific day set aside to honor our incredible planet and we enjoy the conversation it inspires with regard to environmental sustainability and climate action. People like you make it happen. When you shop at the co-op, your money makes a bigger impact in your local community than at a typical grocery store. At the co-op, your food dollars work to support a robust local economy, a vibrant community, and a healthy environment. Thanks to co-op shopper support, local farmers and producers continue to have a market for their delicious food, organic agriculture continues to grow, local food pantries and nonprofit organizations have a strong partner and together we are making progress towards a fairer food system.

Celebrate Co-op Month!

Every October, cooperatives across the United States join the National Cooperative Business Association in celebrating Co-op Month. The theme for 2019, “Co-ops:  By the Community, for the Community,” is a celebration of how co-ops enable people to work together to meet their needs and build stronger communities.

Across the Northeast, people have used food co-ops to improve access to healthy, local, affordable food. While most of these grocery stores got their start more than 30 years ago some began in the 1930s and ’40s, and a new wave of start-ups have opened their doors in the past ten years, representing a renewed interest in food security and community ownership. Today, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) includes over 35 food co-ops and start-ups, locally owned by more than 150,000 members and employing over 2,300 people. Together, these co-ops generate shared annual revenue of $340 million, including sales of $93 million in local products. 


Our Co-op, founded over 40 years ago, is proud to work with more than 300 local farmers and producers to keep our shelves well-stocked with local foods. Last year, 34% of our store sales represented purchases of local products. This means that the hardworking local farmers and producers in our community have a stable retail market for their wares and your purchases ensure that they can continue to thrive doing the work that they love. But the impact goes well beyond that. Vermont’s dynamic local food system is made up of a diverse range of farmers and food producers including dairy farmers, farmers of fruits & vegetables, livestock, hay, maple products, and specialty crops like hemp; and it also includes thousands of entrepreneurs creating a variety of value-added products (e.g., cured meats, baked goods, beer, chocolate); sophisticated distribution networks; and dozens of organizations that provide business planning, technical assistance, education, and outreach services for these local farmers and producers. So when you’re buying local products, your hard-earned food dollars are supporting so much more than the individual farmer or producer, plus you’re keeping your money circulating within your own community in an impactful way. 



Another exciting way that our Co-op is able to cultivate community is by giving back. Last year, our Co-op donated over 7 tons of food to our local food shelves, representing a dollar value of $96,527. Thanks to your patronage and willingness to round-up your purchases during our quarterly Rally For Change events, we passed along over $12,818 dollars to Addison County-based non-profit organizations that serve at-risk populations. Last year’s Empty Bowl dinner raised $2,244 for local food shelves, HOPE and CVOEO, and the September Share the Harvest partnership with NOFA-VT allowed us to pass along $1,844 to purchase local farm shares for community members in need. We were also able to donate gift cards to each and every Addison County-based non-profit that reached out to us seeking support for various raffles, fundraisers, and community events, totaling over $20,000. Being a community-owned, not-for-profit grocery store allows us to share our profits back to the community in a meaningful way that benefits all. 

Food co-ops are not alone in their contribution to more resilient local communities. From farmer co-ops to worker co-ops, credit unions to artist co-ops, and housing co-ops to energy co-ops, cooperative businesses thrive across the U.S. economy, where 350 million people are co-op members. Nationwide, cooperatives generate $514 billion in revenue and more than $25 billion in wages, according to a study conducted by the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives. And because they are member-owned, co-ops are rooted in their communities and governed by the people who use them to meet their needs.

Throughout Co-op Month, we’ll be featuring special sales and promotions on many of our favorite co-op-made products. Just look for the “Go Co-op” signs on the shelves that identify products that were made by our Co-op or other cooperatives. You may be surprised what you find, including dairy products from Cabot Creamery Co-op and Organic Valley; fairly traded fresh produce, chocolate, and coffee from Equal Exchange; fairly traded quinoa and chocolates from Alter Eco; naturally fermented vegetables from Real Pickles; body care products from Alaffia;  and wine from La Riojana! You’ll also find that many of these products are part of our Co-op Basics program at everyday low prices that keep them within reach for any budget. 

To learn more about the history of the cooperative movement and the impact that co-ops have in their communities, visit And thank you for supporting your locally-owned, locally-grown Co-op!

Celebrating Co-op Month

“…Twenty-eight working people founded the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society A store was opened that only offered five items for sale, and though the shop lacked inventory, it was filled with hope. What they lacked in experience, the members made up with enthusiasm. From the mutual efforts of those humble workers grew an idea that today serves (over 1 billion) members worldwide. The year 1844, therefore, represents the birth of the modern cooperative movement.”

-from Weavers of Dreams, a book about the history of cooperatives by David Thompson


This October, our Co-op is joining over 40,000 co-operatives and credit unions across the United States in celebrating Co-op Month, observed nationally since 1964. This year, the National Cooperative Business Association has chosen “Co-operatives See the Future” as the theme for the month, inviting co-op members to work together to make the world a better place, now and for future generations.

“From healthy food to organic agriculture, Fair Trade to building stronger local economies, good jobs to alternative energy, food co-ops have been pioneers, empowering people to work together to make the world a better place,” said Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA).  “And as our co-ops look to the future, we are working to build a more fair, sustainable, and inclusive economy that works for everyone.”

A little over a decade ago, the co-ops that would later form the NFCA began envisioning how the future might be different if they worked together.  As a first step, they commissioned a study to better understand their shared impact.  At the time, few would have guessed that these 17 co-ops had a combined membership of 64,000 people and annual revenue exceeding $161 million. They also had a dramatic impact on local economies, including sales of more than $52 million in local products and jobs for over 1,200 people. Taken together, food co-ops in Vermont were among the top 25 employers in the state!

This year, the NFCA surveyed the same co-ops to see what changed over the past decade.  Though one co-op from the original study closed its doors, the others have continued to grow, with overall membership expanding 38% to more than 88,000 people who, together, own their local grocery store.  Shared revenue has also increased 39% to over $224 million, with sales of local products growing to $64.7 million.  Employment grew 20% to 1,485, while and wages grew 69%, from $28.6 million to almost $48.3 million, reflecting the commitment of food co-ops to more sustainable jobs.

During the same time, the NFCA as a whole has grown, and now includes over 35 food co-ops and start-ups, locally owned by more than 144,000 members and employing over 2,300 people.  Together, these food co-ops generate shared annual revenue of $330 million, including sales of $90 million in local products. 

And food co-ops are not alone in their contribution to more resilient local communities.  From farmer co-ops to worker co-ops, credit unions to mutual insurance, and housing co-ops to energy co-ops, co-operative businesses thrive across the U.S. economy, where 1 in 3 people are members of at least one co-op or credit union.  Nationwide, co-operatives create 2.1 million jobs and generate more than $650 billion in sales and other revenue annually. Because they are member-owned, co-ops are driven by the needs of the people who work there or use their products and services, rather than maximizing profit.

In celebration of Co-op Month, we’ll feature many co-op made products in our weekly sales and be sure to clip the coupon from the Addison Independent which will save you $3 on any co-op made product.  Look for the “Go Co-op” signs on the shelves (see image above) that identify products that were made by other co-operatives. You may be surprised by what you find, including dairy products from Cabot Creamery Co-op and Organic Valley, fairly traded bananas, avocados, coffee, and chocolate from Equal Exchange, naturally fermented vegetables from Real Pickles, Northeast Grown frozen fruits and vegetables from your Neighboring Food Co-ops — and many others. 

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