What Is Sustainability? And Why Should I Care?
Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability is a huge topic and of increasing importance as we continue to exploit all resources to the breaking point. The co-op has had a Sustainability Team for almost a year now; this team is working on making the co-op more sustainable and finding ways the co-op can work with the rest of the community on sustainability measures. Sustainability is necessary for us to continue to live comfortably while not destroying our environment.
Sustainability in the food co-op world usually revolves around a few important issues. Food that is local is more sustainable since it carries a much smaller carbon footprint. Menomonie Market Food Co-op attempts to source as much food locally as possible, and about a third of the sales in the store is local. You can help to increase the sustainability of our local foodshed by purchasing local foods at the co-op. Did you know you can even filter for local foods in our online store?
We also serve as a drop-off point for many local CSAs. You can help to support local farmers by subscribing to a CSA and pick up your food on a regular basis at the co-op. This year you can even have regularly delivered local flowers from a CSA.
Somewhere between 30-40% of food in the US is wasted, which means that resources go into producing food that will never be used. Menomonie Market Food Co-op is leading in the area in combatting food waste. We donated 28,000 pounds of food to Stepping Stones of Dunn County last year that could not be sold in the store, but which is healthful and nutritional. We are in the process of implementing the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grant we received last year, which will let us obtain food from the local farmer’s markets and from local farmers that might simply be lost from the food chain because it is surplus or seconds. We are taking that food and turning it into products at the store. This way more local food is being used, and less food is being wasted. Our new shiny van will start collecting food at the opening of the local farmer’s markets and bringing it to the store to be made into tasty and healthful in our deli.
One last sustainability issue (and the one that is perhaps most difficult) is food packaging. Although we attempt to reduce packaging by selling bulk products (which has itself been challenging during the current pandemic) and purchasing products that are minimally packaged when possible, the fact remains that many food products are over-packaged in unsustainable ways. You can help by choosing minimally-packaged products whenever possible. Menomonie Market Food Co-op is always looking for ways to lower the packaging footprints of products we sell, but this is not a straightforward issue, particularly since the co-op has only a small amount of clout with food producers.
As Earth Day approaches, please join your co-op in sustainable practices. Our planet and environment depend on it.