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8 co-ops grab the spotlight as 'sustainability stars'

National Co+op Grocers recognizes co-ops across the country that made significant year-over-year improvements in their social, environmental and local economic impacts.

From reducing carbon footprints to increasing staff diversity, retail food co-ops nationwide consistently honor the co-op principle “concern for community” as part of their business practices. National Co+op Grocers recently celebrated eight co-ops that last year made extraordinary advances in this area with its annual Co+efficient Sustainability Star Awards.

Introduced in 2014, Co+efficient is a sustainability program NCG designed to benchmark and improve co-ops’ social, environmental and local economic impacts. The Co+efficient Sustainability Star Awards—now in their third year—spotlight co-ops that made the greatest year-over-year improvements.

Presented in April 2018 at NCG’s annual meeting in Durham, N.C., the Co+efficient 2017 Sustainability Star Awards recipients were:

Boise Co-op (Boise, Idaho) reduced overall waste by 5 percent in 2017, in part by partnering with a nonprofit farm to take 15,000 pounds of compostable materials annually. New, more efficient freezers helped the store reduce energy use by 10-15 percent.

BriarPatch Food Co-op’s (Grass Valley, Ca.) inclusive hiring practices resulted in more diversity among its staff and its entire staff earns a local livable wage. In addition, new solar panels reduced the store’s carbon footprint by over 300 tons of CO2.

Community Food Co-op (Bellingham, Wash.) cut its carbon footprint by 280 tons by reducing refrigerant gas leaks through additional preventative maintenance. The co-op also set and achieved a goal for 90 percent waste diversion.

Concord Food Co-op (Concord, N.H.) set a goal to reduce energy use by 5 percent in one year and exceeded it with a 7 percent reduction. The co-op partnered with a local group on a program that works toward a more inclusive workforce. It also donated 1,000 hours of volunteer time in its community.

Marquette Food Co-op (Marquette, Mich.) used 25 percent less energy per square foot than the national average. In 2017, all staff earned a local livable wage. The co-op prioritizes safety by providing fresh food and deli staff an average of eight hours of food safety training annually.

Orcas Food Co-op (Eastsound, Wash.) reduced its energy use by an estimated 5 percent in one year. The co-op addressed inclusion by providing its membership application in Spanish as well as English. Its Sustainable FARM Fund has supported innovative projects at six local farms in just two years.

The Merc Co+op (Lawrence, Kan.) completed installation of 330 solar panels that will save $1 million over 25 years. Nearly three-fourths of co-op staff participated in community outreach volunteering programs, and the co-op provided $15,000 in assistance for healthy food access.

Willy Street Co-op (Madison, Wis.) helped incubate local producers with its Retail Ready Lab. The co-op supported healthy food access by providing $237,000 in assistance and multiple programs for those in need. The co-op’s staff earned a local living wage, and it launched a new co-op green team. 

“We congratulate these co-ops for their tremendous efforts in improving their communities and the planet,” said C.E. Pugh, interim chief executive officer, National Co+op Grocers. “They not only undertook multiple, meaningful endeavors, they also carefully documented and tracked their progress. These efforts will go a long way in helping other co-ops and organizations learn from and implement their own initiatives. Their work is incredibly valuable and greatly appreciated.” 

Source: Natural Co+op Grocers

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