It’s primary election season, with all of the attendant nervousness, activity, and exhaustion that this calls up for us, especially those who are active and working hard to get out the vote. This democracy has had more than its share of events and processes that have called into question the agency we have—or don’t—upon our form of government.
At times like these, it’s always a good idea to remember those things in which you can actively participate and make lasting change that will affect your lives and those of your neighbors. Registering to vote and getting to the polls, to be sure, but also seemingly small things like where you choose to spend your grocery dollars and even packaging decisions governing your family’s purchases. These are fundamental decisions that make an immediate difference! Spending your money at local businesses like our Co-op return a much greater percentage to the community, especially when “local” means that ownership and management of the business are truly local. I am happy to report, for instance, that our Co-op Bulk department’s sales are recently showing a modest increase over last year, the first such gain in several years. To me, this reflects a more widespread understanding and acknowledgment of the role that apparently innocuous packaging decisions have in the aggregate. Perhaps it was those photos of plastic bottles in the ocean, or the pictures of sea turtles’ ingested diet. Or maybe it was the understanding that shopping was cheaper in bulk. For whatever finally reaches a critical mass of people that they begin to make choices such as these, I am grateful.
Speaking of agency, we have been enjoying a more dynamic conversation with shareholders lately around some of the products and choices that we offer. A couple of shareholders expressed a desire for accessing salmon that merits the highest rating for the Seafood Watch eco-certification from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We have passed that request on to our seafood suppliers to see what we might be able to purchase. We have also been in touch with the Marine Stewardship Council along with other co-ops to better understand what options we have to access in order to make more sustainable seafood available. As with all of our products, we will still offer value options as well, but will work on getting even more of these choices in our store for you. We will also work on a system of better signage for you to see more quickly what choices you may have for sustainability.
Another group of shareholders has gotten in touch with us to assist in evaluating options for bulk food packaging, for those items that cannot live in bins. We have been working on this problem for some time, researching what exists from our packaging suppliers, who are themselves scrambling to replace some items that have been made with PFAS, a carcinogenic chemical that keeps fats from sticking to the container, even as they expand their compostable lines. We have also been in touch with our fellow cooperatives to see what systems other people are trying out. We will be inviting that group of BFC shareholders to hear the results of our work and give us their ideas as we move forward. Our goals are to continue to address as many packaging options as we can to eliminate more and more non-sustainable plastics and other items.
And don’t forget all of the non-profits who need your volunteer help. There is no better way to have power over change in your community than by lending a helping hand to assist our neighbors. Join the Co-op team cooking for the overnight shelter every month, and have some fun with other volunteers. Check in with Youth Services and help them organize spring fundraisers. Stop in to the Boys and Girls Club to see what they might need this spring. And let us at the Co-op know when you complete these volunteer tasks, and we will reward you with up to four months of working shareholder credits, because we believe in collaborative community effort.
Choose local greens, eat local eggs, purchase granola made in Brattleboro. These choices immediately change our local economy. We are now in our 45th year of doing our part for this local economy, with your support. Celebrate with us—take notice of the special products around the store that have the 45th anniversary logo prominently displayed! We will have a variety of events throughout the year. Whether a party or a mural-painting, there will be occasions to join us in celebrating the Co-op difference, through several generations. Look for opportunities to let us know what this Co-op has meant to you, and to your family. We are humbled by your stories, and will spread them around as much as we can! Meanwhile, remember to go to the polls. Yes, your participation matters there too.
See you in the aisles,
By Sabine Rhyne, General Manager