The Nutrition and Education Committee’s Monthly 3-Question Survey

Prepared Foods Section

February’s Survey Topic: Going Green at the Co-op

Please click here to go to our survey!
Each month in the Co-op Voice, The Nutrition and Education Committee (NEC) posts a survey to get your opinions about everything from soup to nuts. This month, we’re asking about environmentally-positive initiatives, from recycling would-be trash to the possible benefits of a committee focused on environmentally-friendly improvements and going green at the Co-op. Please complete our survey to tell us what you think!

One challenge to being an environmentally-responsible organization is the abundance of plastics in packaging for the products we receive and sell. For virtually everyone, plastics pervade life—and yet their disposal remains an enormous problem for the planet. Together with the Bulk Department, the Nutrition and Education Committee wants to not only hear from you about how you think the Co-op ought to approach these issues as an institution, but how you might participate in increased waste recycling opportunities.There are many different types of plastics, but for our purposes we’re going to concentrate on three and review their recycling and disposal streams:

  1. Single Stream Recyclable Plastics:

    Bottles, jugs, yogurt containers, etc…these are generally hard plastics, picked up at the curb for recycling, which display a numbered recycling symbol in a small triangle that you’ve surely seen on the bottom or side of plastic packaging.

  2. Plastic Films:

    Plastic bags from grocery stores, produce bags, bread bags, bubble wrap, air pillows, zip-close food storage bags, and product wrap used on paper towels, diapers, bathroom tissue, water bottles, furniture, and electronics. Plastic films should not be included in the curbside bin. They are soft plastics, frequently displaying a numbered recycling symbol, and are not accepted at most single stream Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs), where recyclables go to get sorted. That’s right. As a matter of fact, when plastic film goes through a MRF it damages the equipment. It has to be pulled out by hand and gets thrown in the trash. So, please don’t put plastic films in the curbside bin! Instead, take them to your local grocery store for recycling. You can even bring them to the Co-op.

  3. Trash:

    All other plastics, packaging or otherwise. Plastics take hundreds of years to break down in the environment and even longer in a landfill, if they breakdown at all.

In comes TerraCycle, an organization from New Jersey that takes would-be trash and turns it into products such as building materials, furniture, gardening gadgets, office supplies, and much more. Some TerraCycle redemption programs earn rewards. Reward points can be used to donate money or supplies to a charity or school of your choice, or towards buying products from TerraCycle, like their Zero Waste Boxes, for total recycling. Zero Waste Boxes are sold by TerraCycle for the collection of many other types of would-be trash that they recycle. There are waiting lists for most TerraCycle reward programs. But, TerraCycle provides free shipping for the following programs and they are available right now:

The Co-op could elect to become a community asset in a new way, by becoming a TerraCycle collection point. To get started, the Board and/or Rick Mausert would need to approve this initiative and there would be a few other necessities:

  1. Find someone to oversee the program, whether a Staff Member, Member-Owner, or committee.
  2. Decide on a good location at the store for product collection.
  3. Devote some member hours to start and maintain the program.
  4. Make and/or clearly label containers for collection.

And, if there is enough interest and support from Membership, we could:

  • Start small with a few free programs, and see how it goes.
  • Get on the waiting lists for the programs that offer rewards.
  • Someday we could earn enough rewards to buy a Zero Waste Box.

This endeavor could divert more of the waste stream away from landfills and open up more member work opportunities for Member-Owners; it could be a win-win. If this is a subject that interests you, please take our survey today to help us with more feedback on this subject! And don’t forget to thank Bulk Department Manager, Tom Gillespie for the idea to pursue this initiative.

Our survey this month also touches on the possibility of creating a new Co-op committee focused on broader efforts the Co-op could make to be more green. An idea first raised by two long-time Member-Owners, we want to hear if it is an effort you think ought to be pursued. The vision is that this new committee would oversee projects like the Co-op’s recycling efforts, and also research more environmentally friendly alternatives, such as: cleaner energy, better packaging, and perhaps even optional paperless transactions with digital receipts. Please click here to go to our survey!

December’s Survey Responses

Please click here to see the full list of responses from December.
Thank you for your continued support! We appreciate your opinions!
December’s survey focused on the Produce Department. First, we asked what your first priority was when buying fresh produce. By far, the top-two stated priorities among respondents were organic and local products. Seasonal produce was also a popular choice. Some people had mixed feelings about choosing one priority between the options listed; their priorities varied depending on many different factors.

When we asked which category of fresh produce you buy year round, there were a number of top answers, including: onions, garlic, ginger, green leafy vegetables, root vegetables, and bananas. Cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, apples, and pears, were tied for second place, followed by mushrooms and avocados. Beyond that the numbers dropped right off.

When we asked whether the higher price of out-of-season produce gives you a negative impression of the Produce Department, by far most people said no. This demonstrated respondents’ understanding that it costs more to bring in out-of-season produce from far away and that is reflected in the product price.

Recently, Brendan Kelly, the Produce Manager for the Co-op, came and talked with us at an NEC meeting. We were all very excited to hear from Brendan that our Produce Department is virtually free of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Although this is a great selling point, we can’t advertise it yet because he needs to get confirmation in writing from all of his suppliers first. But, he’s working on that now, and we look forward to seeing huge signs in the Produce Department soon, saying that all of our fresh produce is GMO-free!

Thank you for participating!