Sustainability Update: Building on a Strong Foundation

Sustainability Update

Our team has been working on many different projects throughout the year, taking great steps to fulfill our four sustainability goals. Our four goals to achieve by 2030 are: carbon neutrality, zero waste, eliminating toxic chemicals, and being a leader in our sustainable community. We look forward to our sustainable success in the upcoming decade! 

Zero Waste

Last year we introduced two options for reusable produce bags. We offer a cotton bag and a bag made from recycled plastic, both for only 50¢. Over the past year, we have sold over 16,000 of these reusable bags. We also began charging 2¢ for new plastic bags. 

These two changes have made a massive impact at our co-op. In 2019, we have ordered 100,000 less plastic produce bags than in 2018! This is all thanks to you, our member-owners.

You may have noticed a new box by the Info Desk for our cork collection program. We have partnered with ReCork, a company that takes used corks and upcycles them into yoga blocks, shoes, and surf traction pads. So far we have recycled over 100 lbs of corks! That’s nearly 9,000 bottles of wine - all for a good cause. You can learn more at the ReCork website.

We also made a switch in our soup lids, from plastic to paper. These small changes throughout our Co-op make all the difference. 

Check out this video reviewing the Co-op's bag options:

Behind the Scenes

We take waste very seriously - enough to dig through it all! Our team conducted several waste audits in different departments this year, with guidance from Recology. It’s just as fun as you can imagine - separating out every discarded item into a category, weighing it, and reporting back with photos. We looked through trash from the Deli, Produce, our administrative offices, and yes, even our customer trash and recycling. 

We discovered that we throw away a lot of plastic nitrile gloves, and decided to make a change. In our Produce and Specialties department, we began a pilot for a glove take-back recycling program through West Coast Paper. By the end of 2020, we plan to see all of our gloves upcycled store-wide. 

But what about the customer trash and recycling? The reality is this: most of our customer recycling is too contaminated with food to be properly recycled. None of the take-out containers like coffee cups, burrito bowls, or purple take-out boxes are recyclable. Yet everyday these containers end up in the recycling, usually with food that contaminates the other items like paper or bottles. 

Rogue To Go

There is a solution on the horizon for 2020… we are beginning a pilot program for Rogue To Go, a reusable take-out container program! We are partnering with the City of Ashland and four other restaurants. When you buy-in to the program, you can use a provided bright green OZZI container to fill up directly from the Deli hot bar, cold bar, or have tacos or a sandwich to go! This revolutionary program will be the first of its kind in Oregon. We hope it will have a lasting effect to reduce single-use containers. 

Sign up for Rogue To Go at the Info Desk, and learn more at Rogue to Go's website.

Rogue To Go container at the salad bar

Energy Efficiency

2019 was the first year that we participated in a free program called Strategic Energy Management, offered by the Energy Trust of Oregon. We joined other organizations such as the Medford School District, City of Talent, Rogue Community College, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival to work on ways to reduce our natural gas usage. Our SEM Intern helped our team develop an Energy Policy, an Annual Plan, and achieve all five milestones for the year. 

Our biggest challenge was addressing our hot water usage. We successfully installed a new electric hot water heater in our Deli, helping to lower the temperature on our natural gas water heaters by over 30 degrees! Our intern, Nina, will be returning in 2020 to help guide us towards more energy efficiency. 

If you would like to learn more about our sustainability initiatives or have suggestions, contact Rianna at [email protected] 

More Co-op News

Get to know Ashland Emergency Food Bank

The sixth cooperative principle, "Concern for Community," has become even more important since the pandemic began and economies, locally and globally, started to constrict. To address this, the Board of Directors agreed in April to release 100% of patronage dividends and designate Ashland Emergency Food Bank as a donation option for those dividends - resulting in over $20,000 in donations. And with the early launch of Change for Good register round-up, AEFB was a natural choice to receive round-up donations. 

2020 Co-op Election Results

2020 Co-op Election Results

Ashland Food Co-op owners voted for three open seats on the Board of Directors, and for ten non-profit organizations for the Change for Good register round-up program.

Click a name below to read more about that Co-op Board member.

Co-op Owners Step-Up to Support the Ashland Emergency Food Bank!

AFC and AEFB Press Release - Local Strength!

Release Date: 5-26-2020

In April, the Ashland Food Co-op Board of Directors announced to the community that the Co-op would be returning 100% of the 2019 Patronage Dividend to its owners. The 100% Patronage Dividend return to Co-op owners converted to over $628,000.

The Co-op Board felt in this time of great need it was not the right time for the Co-op to put away funds for the future, but rather to support owners fully so they may have more strength to weather these stormy times.

Free Monday Night Lectures - virtual and recorded

Thanks to the many agile and adaptable experts in the Rogue Valley, the much-loved Free Monday Night Lectures live on - even if everything is moving online.

While we miss seeing community members with a joy of learning showing up at the Co-op Classroom, we hope these recordings teach and inspire you. 


Open letter from AFC Board on Coronavirus Policies

The Ashland Food Co-op has played a critical role supporting our community for nearly 50 years by providing healthy food and a safe place to shop. With the recent COVID-19 shutdown, this support has been even more important and has stretched our organization in ways that we could not have anticipated. We have endeavored to address the needs of both our staff and our customers, hopefully in the most cooperative manner.

Coronavirus Preparedness at the Co-op

The Ashland Food Co-op acknowledges and shares our community’s concerns about protecting against the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). The safety and health of staff and customers is a top priority for the Co-op. We are taking proactive steps throughout our store to maintain a clean atmosphere to work and shop.

We have consolidated store changes below.

Owner Voting on 2020 Co-op Board & more

As an owner of the Ashland Food Co-op, you are an important decision-maker in the leadership of the Co-op! A vital part of your ownership is voting for the Board of Directors.

On the ballot: Vote for Board Candidates and Change for Good Organizations

Vote for Board Candidates
This year, four candidates are nominated for three Board positions: each elected Board director will serve a three-year term. The candidates are Ed Claassen, Mark Gibbs, Carolina Livi and Julie O'Dywer.

A dozen local favorites to explore this summer

The Co-op has always had a focus on supporting the strong local scene of growers and producers - and in these times, it's even more important. Here is just a small selection of some of our favorites from the area.  Help support local businesses next time you stop by the Co-op by picking one of these products.

Unwavering Spirit in a Time of Change

By Emile Amarotico, General Manager

It’s been two months since my last update on our Co-op community, but it could just as well have been two years ago, or from an alternate reality! Needless to say, life at the Co-op has changed, and it hasn’t been easy for employees or shoppers. But despite the challenges, it has been an inspiring and reaffirming time that reminds us why we love the cooperative enterprise.

Staying Sustainable in A Changing World

By Rianna Koppel, Sustainability Coordinator

In the midst of a health crisis, how can we focus on sustainability? Let’s be real - these are tough times!

What does sustainability look like now? I like to refer to the definition of sustainability - meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. How can we meet the needs of the present, while keeping the future in mind?