Co-Op Food Stores works to ‘do things better’

Hanover co-op helps farmers’ bottomline with more sustainable form of packaging

Ray and Jenny Sprague, with their son Hobbes, of Edgewater Farm in Plainfield supply produce to the Hanover-based Co-Op Food Stores and participate in its sustainable packaging initiative. (Photo by Alan Reetz)

Founded in 1936, the Hanover-based Co-op Food Stores is the second largest food cooperative in the nation and among the oldest. By the nature of being a cooperative, the co-op is rooted and invested in its community, the Upper Valley Region of Vermont and New Hampshire.

Walk down the aisles of the Hanover co-op and you’ll see herbs from Putney, Vt., mixed salad greens from Concord, carrots from Plainfield and mushrooms from Danville, among some of its local offerings. The co-op is proud of its partnerships with local farmers and investments in local economies.

“We have very close relationships with our farmers and are committed to supporting them,” said Allan Reetz, director of public relations at the Co-op Food Stores. “We understand that running a farm is a very expensive operation with lots of risks. Our concern for our farmers’ struggles, along with our focus on sustainability and community issues, means that we are constantly finding ways to do things better.”

In fact, its winning entry last fall in NH Businesses for Social Responsibility’s Sustainability Slam was “a classic triple bottom line story,” said Reetz.” In 90 seconds, the event’s presentation format, he described how the co-op partnered with local farmers to revamp packaging around its containers used to transport farm produce to the co-op’s stores.

Under the initiative, the co-op subsidizes 75% of farmers’ costs to purchase durable plastic crates. Unlike the cardboard and wax alternatives that are thrown in the dumpster after just a few uses, reusable plastic crates have a lifespan of about 10 years.

By choosing this more sustainable form of packaging, the co-op’s farmers have not only saved over $15,000, but have also diverted 8,000 cardboard boxes from the landfill, since the wax boxes cannot be recycled.

Editor’s note: Throughout the year, New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility collects “Just One Thing” stories of sustainability initiatives from businesses across the state. These efforts are then showcased as part of the organization’s Sustainability Slam, held in the fall. To submit your own Just One Thing story, visit nhbsr.org/jot.

Categories: Just One Thing

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