Helping the Co-op to work for a more sustainable world and to support a zero-waste food system is easier than you might think, and one simple way to pitch in is to BYOBC (bring your own bulk containers).
Our personal health and the health of our planet are critical components of our well-being. Decisions made in the Co-op aisles can have lasting effects on both. From packaging to production, ingredients to meal planning, food choices are an everyday way to make a change for the better. Through this series, “Healthy People, Healthy Planet,” Co-op Dietitian Mary Choate and Sustainability Coordinator Emily Neuman offer their insights on how to choose wisely, for personal and planetary health, as you shop for food. Drawing upon the latest science, common sense, and practical experience, they hope to bring some clarity to the often-challenging subject of “what to eat.”
by Emily Neuman
Part of our vision for sustainability at the Co-op is to support a zero-waste food system. Shoppers can help make this vision a reality by shopping in the bulk department with reusable containers. The bulk department features staples, snacks, spices, and more than 100 types of coffee. These items arrive at the Co-op with very little packaging. Shoppers can keep the packaging footprint small by bringing their own containers when purchasing bulk items.
“Some people do bring back their bag and reuse it,” says Chris Zullo of the Lebanon Bulk Department. “Maybe one in ten people do that.”
If every Co-op shopper did it, it would make a real difference.
“If people thought about how much coffee they buy in a year and how many bags they use and that they’re all plugging up the landfill because they can’t be recycled, people would start to reuse,” says Chris. He noted that reuse would benefit not only the environment, but shoppers’ pocketbooks too. “If we could get more people bringing their own container, we’d save money on providing bags, and you might see those savings when buying coffee.”
The Lebanon bulk department currently goes through more than 3,000 coffee bags per month. Staff have set a goal to reduce that number by 50 percent. Shoppers can help by refilling Co-op coffee bags or by bringing their own containers to fill.
Shoppers can also buy products like coffee or granola in its original packaging. As an added benefit, the packaging might be useful! We find that plastic granola sacks make great trash liners in the stores.
If you would like to buy bulk food in its original packaging, please stop at the Service Desk in either store or call (603) 643-2667. Minimum order volume varies depending on the product. Coffee, for example, is shipped in five-pound bags.