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

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Shoppers in Bulk
Photo by John Carl D'Annibale. From the August 8, 2013 Times Union

March’s Survey Topic: Reusing Containers and Improving Signage

Please click here to go to our survey!

Every month, the Nutrition and Education Committee (NEC) posts a survey in the Co-op Voice. We need to hear your opinions to help guide our efforts.

Did you know that you can bring your own containers to the Co-op, for use when shopping in our amazing Bulk Department aisles? The Co-op has the largest Bulk Department in the Northeast. One of the main benefits of having a Bulk Department is using it to reduce the packaging we take home with our delicious purchases. You, too, can do this, anytime you want to bring in your own container from home. Just bring it to the Service Desk on your way into the store, and they will weigh the container for you so that cashiers know not to charge you for the weight of your container when buying bulk foods. It’s a great feature of shopping at the Co-op, and it helps us keep true to our name, Honest Weight, when we charge people the honest amount for the weight of their food purchases, not for the weight their reusable container adds to the purchase.

In our January survey, we asked about how often you bring your own containers when shopping at the Co-op and, among the responses, people suggested the Bulk Department offer free, used containers for shoppers to use. It turns out this is something that used to be done at the old store. We’re really excited to announce that the Bulk Department has brought this practice back. Now, free used and pre-weighed containers that have been washed and sanitized by Bulk Department Staff are available for all to use, and have been placed on a shelf below the bulk oils.

In this month’s survey, we want to know if you are likely to use the free containers the Bulk Department is now furnishing. We would also like to continue getting feedback from you about signage that could be used at the store, to help encourage shoppers to use their own containers and reduce waste while shopping. Please complete our survey to tell us what you think!

January’s Survey Responses: Bulk Packaging

Please click here to see the full list of responses from January, when we asked about Bulk Department packaging.

Thank you so much for your participation in this survey! We had such a great response, it was our most popular survey yet.

When we asked how often you brought your own containers, jars and bags when shopping at the Co-op, 95 percent of our respondents said they brought containers in at least some of the time. Clearly, reducing, reusing, and recycling is important to our respondents. Thirty-four percent said they always brought their containers, and 32 percent said they usually brought them.

When we asked what options you would choose if you didn’t bring a container for your Co-op purchases, about half of respondents said they would most likely use a recyclable plastic bag provided by the Co-op instead. Others said they may buy a new container while at the store and use that, or use a compostable produce bag if it were available (the Bulk and Produce Managers are looking into that possibility), or wait to make their purchase until they had their own container with them. Some wrote in responses, including those who said they would choose the small paper bags in the Bulk Department instead. Among the comments was also the suggestion to have previously-used containers supplied by members available in the store.

According to one of the Bulk Department’s managers, Tom Gillespie, in the old store we used to have clean used containers available for re-use when shopping. Well, the Bulk Department has brought that practice back! Free, pre-weighed, sanitized used containers have been placed on a shelf below the bulk oils. Please feel free to use them!

January’s survey also asked the best way to encourage shoppers to bring in their own containers and bags. The majority thought it would be most helpful to offer shoppers an incentive (e.g., discount, donation) for using their own containers, while many also said having signage in the store reminding people to bring their own bags, jars and containers would be helpful. Many also thought it would help shoppers to see signage in the store, reminding people of the environmental impact of using non-biodegradable packaging. Though the other options we suggested were not as widely supported among respondents, several written-in responses focused on providing clear signage. The question now is: where in or around the store do we place signs.

In January’s survey, multiple respondents also wrote in comments about needing better signage in the cafe, for effective waste disposal. As always, we appreciate and learn from your feedback. So, in this month’s survey, we’re building on your comments and asking what kind of signage you think would be most helpful for improving waste collection in the cafe.

And remember — no uncovered hands in the bulk bins!

Thank you for participating!