news from the board

Keeping it Clean AND Healthy

Would you believe it if I wrote that doing laundry has been bringing me joy recently? It’s true! Ever since I learned how to make my own non-toxic, low-waste laundry detergent, I feel immense satisfaction and joy knowing that I’m taking a daily step to keep my family healthy and reduce our footprint of single-use plastics.  
 
As fellow Co-op shoppers, I don’t have to tell you about the importance of minimizing our exposure to synthetic chemicals. For many families, mine included, it was easy to grasp why I would want my food to be organic to minimize the number of toxins I put into my body. Grasping the significance of non-toxic body, beauty, and household cleaning products, however, can be harder, and take more convincing. Many of us have brand loyalties dating back to our childhood, and we associate the smells of these products with cleanliness. 
 
Unfortunately, these smells are frequently a daily source of toxicity in our lives. Our skin is the human body’s largest organ. Therefore, what we put on top of our skin is just as important, as what we put in our mouths. Companies are not required to declare the ingredients of these “fragrances,” which are in fact derived from petrochemicals. These synthetic chemicals are carcinogens and are also known to disrupt the endocrine/hormonal system, which is important for everyone, but particularly young women and girls.
 
Luckily, our Co-op has a wide array of non-toxic household cleaning products, as well as body and beauty products. If you want to take it a step further, reduce waste, and save money, it’s easy to make your own products using ingredients from our Co-op. For a no-brainer switch, try making your own antimicrobial bathroom and kitchen cleaning spray. Combine equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle, and add 5-10 drops of tea tree, lemon, or grapefruit essential oil. That’s it! 
 
And what about my joy-filled laundry detergent? After doing laundry every other day because of my daughter’s cloth diapers, I felt frustrated by the number of single-use plastic detergent bottles we were going through. Making my own has been absurdly easy, and effective even on stinky diapers. The main ingredient is baking soda, which is naturally derived, and is so abundant that we are at no risk of depleting our domestic sources! To make the detergent, I first picked up a used bucket from the Co-op to mix the ingredients in. You often see used feta cheese buckets from the deli by the door, next to the magazine swap area. Next, I repurposed a scoop from a finished container of protein powder to use as the measuring scoop. Zero waste! 
 
Here’s the recipe–it will last months, and costs just pennies per load. Add 1-2 tablespoons per load.
  • 2 cups baking soda (available in the Co-op bulk department)
  • 4 cups washing soda (A derivative of baking soda. Make your own by spreading a layer of baking soda on a cookie sheet and baking at 400 degrees for 1 hour. Or, purchase separately) 
  • 4 cups borax (a naturally occurring mineral) 
  • 10-20 drops of your favorite essential oil from the wellness department 
 
Amanda Warren is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member.

It’s Patronage Dividends Time of Year – Just What Is This??

As explained on the Co-op’s website, “Patronage dividends are a traditional way for Co-ops to share profits back with their members. As Member-owners of the Co-op, you also own the profits, and a patronage dividend system allows us to share and reinvest those profits in a transparent, mutually beneficial way.”

The annual patronage dividend refund system is four years old.  This year, the Co-op Board of Directors voted unanimously to refund members 50% of the total patronage.  Last year’s refund was 40%. For a variety of reasons, General Manager Glenn Lower suggested we increase the refund to 50% for this year.  By early July, if a member-owners’ patronage dividend is more than $5.00, they will receive this refund in the mail.  Patronage dividends less than $5.00 will be combined and donated to the local food shelf.  Glenn and staff determined that pooling these small patronage dividends to make a meaningful donation in honor of these members was a better use of Co-op resources (time, paper, ink, postage) that would be expended to send these small checks through the mail.

Many of you have received these dividends in past years and wondered why and how this system works.  Member-owners receive a share of the profits from Co-op business in proportion to how much they purchased during the Co-op’s fiscal year (April 1 – March 31).  The more you shop, the more you are eligible to earn.  At the end of the fiscal year, if the Co-op is profitable, we as a Board of Directors review any anticipated projects and financial needs for the Co-op. We then use that information to determine how much of the profits to retain, and how much to give back to member-owners.  The amount retained stays in the Co-op, but please note, it belongs to the member-owners as a group and becomes part of what we own together as an investment in community ownership. The remaining profits are then returned by check or voucher to the member-owners. Law requires that at least 20% of patronage be returned to member-owners.

Nearly 80% of all sales this past year were to current member-owners! The return to each member-owner is slightly less than 1% of their purchases for the year. An estimate of the break down is below:

  • If a member spent $10/week=$4.70 will be donated to the food shelf
  • If a member spent $25/week=$11.74 in the patronage check
  • If a member spent $50/week=$23.48 in the patronage check
  • If a member spent $100/week=$46.95 in the patronage check
  • If a member spent $200/week=$93.91 in the patronage check

With 5,880 current member-owners, 3,717 members will receive a check for $5.00 or more, and the remaining patronage for the 2,163 members with a refund below $5.00 will be pooled for that donation to the food shelf. 

For more information about patronage, please see Your 2019 Patronage Dividends Check Explained

Sophie Esser Calvi is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member

Co-op Elections Process

It’s May! Spring is in the air! The flowers have bloomed after the April rains; people are planting gardens and opening windows for the first time. Of all the traditions and changes that come with May, though, I’m most excited about voting for my board directors at the Middlebury Coop!  While voting happens in May, the recruiting process happens throughout the year. Members of the Board Development Committee (BDC) typically start meeting with potential board members as early as November for the next year. As your board, we are always thinking about the future of the organization, and part of that is exploring who might be a good board member in the future. (Hey you- yes you- reading this- have you ever considered running for the board?)

This year the Board had a more formal “board recruitment/election” process starting in January. We started by inviting anyone interested in running for the board to come to an “Eat and Greet” conversation with current board members. There were three Eat and Greet sessions so members could come and learn about the board process, check out a board packet, and begin to wrap their mind around policy governance.  Policy governance is the formal set of rules the board abides by to make sure the coop is running smoothly. To be sure everyone interested had a chance to learn more about the board, we also set up a few sessions of tabling at the demo counter. We talked with dozens of potential new board directors!

The process to run for the board includes filling out an “application” that includes a short list of questions and meeting with a board member. The awesome staff at the coop compile the application Q/As into a ballot, which is sent out via snail mail as part of the Annual Report to all members. If you haven’t already received your ballot in the mail you will soon. This year we ended up with a slate of five candidates running for three seats on the board. If taking part in the most glorious tradition of democracy isn’t enough reason to vote, the ballot is also a coupon for $3 off your next shopping trip to the coop!

As you read through your ballot and consider your possible future board directors, consider this too: We will hold elections every May!  Do you think you would be a good candidate for the board? Come to a board meeting, or connect with one of us. We are always ready to have a conversation with you!

And as you ponder that, GO VOTE!

R.J. Adler is a Middlebury Co-op Board Member

RJ Adler ( Incumbent)

Consider Being a Board Member…

Election season for the Board of Directors is upon us! I am frequently asked why I choose to be a member of the Co-op board.  We are all familiar with the refrain “voting with your dollars” as a shared value of conscious consumers.  I choose to spend my money at the Co-op because I believe in this slogan. And, I choose to be a member of the Board of Directors because I similarly believe in the concept of “voting with your time.” Being a member of the board allows me to “spend” my time committing to democracy.

Wendell Berry writes: “No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it.” In these unsettled times, participating in the democratic leadership of a cooperatively owned, local business allows me to practice living responsibly in my small part of the world. Our Co-op may seem like a small fish in the big pond of the globe—whether we buy organic, fair trade chocolate chips at the Co-op, or conventional chocolate chips from Amazon may seem dolefully inconsequential in the face of the massive social-justice issues our world faces. Participating in the democratic ownership of the Co-op, however, allows me to devote my dollars, time and energy (the only resources I am fully in control of) to the pursuit of an alternative to our global status quo.

During our election season, I urge you to remember Wendell Berry’s concept.  Your decisions and interest matter – whether you are considering running for a spot on the board, or reading up on board candidates to vote in May.  Our Co-op may be small, but participating in the democratic process of our board elections allows us to practice living responsibly in our small part of the world, and thereby living fully in the world as a whole.

Board Recruiting Packets with details on the process of becoming and serving as a board member are available on the website here.  Applications are due March 15, 2019. If you have any questions about running for or serving on the board, please contact Kate Gridley, kmgridley@gmail.com, (802)989-1928, or any member of the Board.  

Amanda Warren is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member

 

 

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