Community Co-op’s Sustainability

In the past ten years it hasn’t been a matter of believing or not believing in climate change or the disastrous state of our planet, the effects are very apparent. Starting in 1950, CO2 levels in our atmosphere have been rising exponentially. The current CO2 level is about 150 parts per million above the highest point ever recorded and is still rising. In consequence of our over expansion of CO2, oceans have risen almost seven inches in the past century, Greenland is losing up to 60 cubic miles of ice per year, glaciers are retreating almost everywhere in the world, acidity levels in the oceans have risen 30% in the past century along with many more horrific changes. So, the huge question for the past half century has been how to prevent or at least stabilize our climate change issue. Quite honestly, the ways to get involved are overwhelming almost unmotivating for people to get involved.

For my whole life I’ve been taught to eat healthy and buy quality foods. Something I didn’t fully understand until more recently was how much the production of food affects our environment as a whole. Americans consumption rate is immense. With the majority of what we consume being processed and produced inorganically the amount of energy expended from our daily consumption is scary. After all this energy (or pollution) is released to produce food, the food has to then be transported. Because Americans need their (let’s say) strawberries in mid December, many companies ship foods across borders resulting in higher transportation emissions but with a similar low cost as if the strawberries flew themselves into US grocery stores.

Are any food corporations helping to reduce the pollution that comes from processing and transporting food? Probably with little surprise, there are several that work hard to make the production of food more of a cycle than the simple consumption to waste. The most outstanding sustainability driven producer and grocer out there would have to be the Community Food Co-ops. I have been fortunate enough to grow up in a town with a Co-op, Bozeman, Montana, and have now moved to a town, Bellingham, Washington, which also has a Co-op. Although this non-profit organization is not as widespread as grocers like Whole Foods or Trader Joes who both have the natural grocer image, the Co-op has far more sustainable elements. Organic land use, distribution and sourcing, tracking energy use and emissions and being highly supportive of sustainability education are naming just a few ways Co-ops thrive for sustainability. One of the most prolific aspects of the Co-op is how it supports its locally grown foods and community. This cuts down the transportation emissions I discussed early as well as boosts the economy around you. Community food Co-ops are non-profits, working with the ideal that every member owns a small portion of the Co-op. This helps generate money around the community and towards sustainable resources rather than just a single store owner.

All of these wonderful attributes of sustainability that Community Co-ops have can still be hard to justify to people when they go to shop there and have to throw down an entire paycheck on a couple bags of groceries. Yes, it is more expensive than most other grocers. As a college student, I grocery shop at the Co-op infrequently because of this very reason. Although, what most of us don’t realize, these are prices we’re paying to help our planet. That might seem far fetched but trying to help sustain this world we live in is very difficult and seemingly unattainable. Therefore, do every little deed you can. Be it recycling, monitoring your waste or going for lunch at the Co-op rather than subway.

Be aware of how you’re impacting the earth that provides for you. We need to continue with full force to help provide and sustain in return. So, don’t get too stressed about the oceans rising or the major increase in natural disasters. Focus on the now and start doing your part in sustainability.

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