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Our Green Policy

The Co-op’s Green Policy was first adopted March 2000. This policy lays out in broad term what the Board of Directors expects from the General Manager in terms of environmental conservation. Originally a report was prepared by the GM and reviewed by the Board on an annual basis. Since 2007, the review period has been biennial—meaning once every two years. The last time the policy was reviewed was May 2009. It will be reviewed next April 2011.

Currently the policy reads as follows: “The General Manager (GM) shall not fail to ensure that all waste is disposed of through safe and responsible methods, and to operate the store in a manner that promotes environmentally friendly products and the reduction, re-use and recycling of resources. This should include, but is not limited to:

  1. Paper, appliance, and shelving recycling, thereby minimizing the creation of waste through reduction, re-use and recycling.
  2. Use of environmentally-friendly cleaning products to minimize the release of pollutants.
  3. Vegetable and food waste composting.
  4. Reasonable minimization of the use of non-renewable energy through improved efficiency and conservation.
  5. Minimizing the environmental impact due to outdoor maintenance.”

At the next review scheduled for this coming April, the Board should review the policy to make sure the policy is all that it can and should be. The Board will also review the General Manager’s written report to make sure the GM has complied with the policy.

Much has happened in the past few years. There are some developments that have taken place since the policy was first implemented some ten years ago that should be reconsidered, not the least of which is the opening of Willy West.

Other issues that I would like to see addressed include:

1) How should the growing implementation of LEED Certification standards affect the Co-op’s Green Policy?
Several food co-ops across the nation operate out of LEED-certified buildings. The LEED Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. (Additional information regarding the LEED standards can be found here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Green_Building_Council.). For me LEED certification standards are to building construction what organic certification is to food.

The first co-op in the nation to receive a LEED certification for its building was Whole Foods Co-op in Duluth, Minnesota. Their website makes the statement that “Whole Foods Co-op is not just a health food market. It’s a statement about community—rooted in the concept of organic as much as it is in sustainability and progress.” Whole Foods Co-op general manager Sharon Murphy said, “I can’t deny that it’s going to cost more money up front. . . I think in the long term it’s going to pay off. We’re using materials that are longer lasting, so there will be less maintenance costs.” (More about Whole Foods Co-op and its LEED-certified building can be found here: www.businessnorth.com/viewarticle.asp?articleid=992.)

In June 2006 the BriarPatch Co-op’s new store in Grass Valley, California was awarded LEED certification for its rehabbed structure. Here is what the general manager said about why they chose to have a LEED-certified building. “From the very beginning of the new store project everyone involved wanted the building to be consistent with the Co-op’s vision of being a leader in environmental responsibility. We wanted a building that represented our values, and we wanted to set an example for the community about sustainable building practices. After much research, BriarPatch and our developer decided to build a LEED-certified building following the methodology of the U.S. Green Building Association. The reason to make our new store a green building was twofold: to walk our talk as an environmentally sound business and to educate our community about the benefits of a green construction. (More about BriarPatch and its LEED-certified building here: www.cooperativegrocer.coop/articles/2009-01-19/becoming-community-hub.)
In January 2009 the Seward Food Co-op in Minneapolis opened a new store that is Gold LEED-Certified. The co-op took an existing building and rehabbed it according to LEED standards. The website explains why they sought certification. “It was a priority for our member-owners, many of whom invested in our expansion. A sustainably-constructed building is an articulation of our Ends Statement—‘sustaining a healthy community that has positive environmental impacts.’ It demonstrates that Seward Co-op is concerned about sustainable living, beyond selling natural foods.” (More about Seward Food Co-op’s LEED-certified building can be found here: http://www.seward.coop/LEED).

Even mainstream grocery stores are seeking LEED certification. On October 27, 2009, Hy-Vee opened its first Wisconsin store in Madison. They occupied the former K-Mart on East Washington and received a Gold LEED certification. This is the first of Hy-Vee’s over 200 facilities that has been LEED-certified.

2) What more can Willy Street Co-op do in terms of reducing waste and conserving water and power?
In 2009, the Wisconsin Grocers Association worked with a Madison utility and an environmental consulting firm to develop a green certification program for its member grocery stores that rates stores in areas such as recycling of used plastic bags and monitoring energy use to waste reduction, energy efficiency, water conservation, and sales of green products. At least five grocery stores in Wisconsin have attained this green certification since then.

Since 2006 Seward Food Co-op has been using a score card to share the effects of its business in four areas, one of which is environmental impact. The scorecard includes a series of measures to see how well it was conserving power and resources. One of those measures compares sales with the amount of energy consumed. It also measures in percentages how much waste was recycled and/or composted. In 2010 Seward recycled or composted 83% of its food waste.

Seward also made environmentalism a main plank in its community outreach program. In one instance Seward promoted reusable containers for liquids by offering a discount for reusable coffee cups and discontinuing sales of bottled tap water. It also gave away reverse osmosis water (less than a gallon) for three months after it ceased selling single-serving bottled water. (Seward’s 2010 Environmental Scorecard can be found here www.seward.coop/2010-scorecard-environment#top.)

Anyone interested in asking a question or providing a comment on the Co-op’s Green Policy should feel free to contact me at .

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