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

Explore citrus!

Whether you're celebrating the weekend's citrus sale, or just exploring some new citrus varieties, know more before you go! Check out the many types of sweet, sour and somewhere in between that you can enjoy at the Co-op! (Availability may vary due to seasonality.)

Citrus sale 20% off - 1/24-1/26!

Rogue Co-ops College Scholarship

As part of the Rogue Co-ops, a group of Rogue Valley cooperative businesses that includes Ashland Food Co-op, Grange Co-op, Medford Food Co-op, and Rogue Credit Union, we're excited to offer a scholarship opportunity to local high school students planning on attending college.

The Rogue Co-ops have collectively funded a $2,000 scholarship (and Grange Co-op offers an additional eight $1,500 scholarships) for students (in public, private or home school settings) who meet the following requirements:

Become an Owner-Volunteer with the AFC Board

The AFC Board of Directors is looking for owner-volunteers for three board committees: the Owner Engagement Committee (OEC), Board Development Committee (BDC), and AFC Gives Committee. 

2020: A vision for the future through Co-ops and local food

As the 2010s come to a close, the “20/20” eyesight analogy couldn’t be more appropriate for the new decade. With our eye on the future, there’s clearly a sense of urgency and awareness of the unique times we’re living in: a changing climate, increases in costs of living, and the shared pressures of a globalized world. 

5 Items to Try: Spreads, Condiments & Snacks

It's fun trying new things! Here are five items you can find at the Co-op with a distinctly international flavor. Whether you're spreading them on some bread or naan, mixing up a salad dressing, or just want something salty and crunchy to snack on, try these out next time you want to elevate your dishes.

10 Ways to Enjoy: Ginger Spread

Sometimes you might come across a product at the Co-op and ask, "That looks good, but how in the heck can I use it in my cooking?" To answer that question, we picked this Ginger Spread made by The Ginger People (famous for their Gin-Gin candies). Grab a jar and try some of these unique applications in your own kitchen - or get inspired to utilize it in another way.

Meet Your Board: Melina Barker

Hello, Co-op members! My name is Melina Barker, and I joined the AFC Board of Directors this July. Since then, I have been busy learning about all the work the previous members have done to craft strategic goals to support the success of the AFC.

Melina Barker


Smart Chicken® Holiday Giving in 2019

During the month of November, Co-op shoppers can nourish their own families and help fight hunger in the Rogue Valley.

Over the years, Smart Chicken® and Ashland Food Co-op have teamed up to donate thousands of pounds of chicken to ACCESS. Smart Chicken® will once again donate Smart Chicken® products based on the total volume that shoppers purchase at Ashland Food Co-op to ACCESS.

Henry in the Garden: Already Preparing for the Spring

The bane of all gardeners is powdery mildew - that white substance that collects both on the tops and bottoms of the leaves of your healthiest vegetable plants. Cucumbers and zucchini seem to be more easily affected by this scourge than many others.

GM Report: Gratitude for a Great 2019 at the Co-op

It’s the season of gratitude and reflection on the year that has passed, and there is so much to be thankful for as a Co-op owner. 

2019 started off with the news that over $13,000 in emergency donations had been raised from Co-op owners and shoppers for support and relief efforts after Paradise, CA was leveled by a wildfire. This outpouring of our support was critical in the months after the fire, after the news trucks had left and the work of rebuilding began. I know how grateful we all are for the much calmer smoke season that our region experienced this summer. 

Rounding Up in October

Part of what makes co-ops unique are the guiding 7 Principles of Cooperation. One of the seven that is felt strongly in Ashland is "Concern for the community" - and that's why the Co-op is offering a new way to give back to our community for the month of October. When you pay at the register, you can round up your total to the nearest dollar. For example, $11.68 becomes $12, and $0.32 is donated.

Donations in October will go to the Ashland Food Co-op Community Fund, which funds the Community Grant program (over $29,000 was provided last year to local non-profits).

Fall Staff Picks

Thanks to alpine trails and shaded valley creeks, outdoor recreation is year-round in the Rogue Valley. But fall usually makes for more frisky feet, so we asked Co-op employees for their favorite fall activities and recommendations for what they grab before they head out. 


Applegate products joining Co-op Basics

Just in time for the school year, Applegate products are being added to the Co-op Basics program! The Co-op carries a variety of Applegate products, like sliced deli meat, cheeses, bacon, and sausages. Now as part of the Co-op Basics program, you’ll be saving up to $2 on Applegate products across the store, every day. 

Applegate sandiwhc