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

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.

March 30 update

Since March 1, staff are receiving a 'hero' differential pay as an acknowledgment of their essential service to the community.

Ashland Food Co-op employees are heroes, worthy of respect and gratitude

Until a crisis like this occurs, few think of Grocers as essential service providers. However, our employees have been here day in and day out, risking their health and the safety of their loved ones, to provide food for our community. This is not a job that can be done from home or from what is now considered a safe social distance. Our employees have worked with the utmost professionalism, care, and concern for shopper well-being.

5 Things You Didn't Know the Co-op Carries for Cold, Flu & Immune Protection

  1. Wishgarden Herbs - Kick Ass Immune: Your total frontline immune defense!
  2. Oshala Farm - Oshala Fire Cider: Locally made in the Applegate. It tastes so good you could craft a healthy dressing with this fire cider!
  3. Mickelberry Gardens - Elderberry: Great Immune support for kids and adults. Made in Oregon.

Choose To Reuse

by Rianna Koppel, Co-op Sustainability Coordinator

At the Ashland Food Co-op, we are committed to becoming Zero Waste by 2030. Along the way, we’ve learned a lot about packaging and single-use at our store. Our owners care deeply about reducing plastic waste, and we do too! 

Reusable Bags 

At the co-op, we have many different bag options… So what's the best choice?

Lisa Beam: Why I'm a Board Member

Why serve on the Board of Directors at the Ashland Food Coop? This was the question that I was faced with about a year ago.

I have lived, worked and shopped in Ashland for the last 20 years. Many of those years I have actively participated on non-profit boards, civic organizations and committees. However, in the last few years I stepped away from those responsibilities to focus on family and business life.

Henry in the Garden: The Pollinator Plan

By Henry Herting, Co-op garden volunteer

It's that fun time of the year when we get to plan our gardens. This year since our pollinators are taking such a hard hit, we are planning a pollinator garden.

Some plants that are considered good for pollinators are not so good fo the gardeners. They are invasive; they are weeds. Nobody likes weeds in their garden - who likes getting down on their knee pads and clawing at deep-rooted weeds growing in places where you don't want them?

Rogue To Go at the Co-op

We are excited to announce the official launch of Rogue To Go at the Ashland Food Co-op!

Rogue To Go is a reusable container pilot program. The pilot connects five participating restaurants by offering a reusable container that can be used for meals to-go and help eliminate single-use boxes. These O2GO containers are made locally in Bend, Oregon by OZZI. The bright green containers are 100% recyclable through a specialty recycler - truly zero waste!

How can you start using Rogue To Go? Check out the steps below and follow along with a walk-through video.

Apply for an AFC Gives community grant

For over 25 years, the Ashland Food Co-op has been re-investing in the local community by awarding grants to non-profit organizations doing important work in the Rogue Valley. Putting the seventh cooperative principle, "concern for community," into action, over $30,000 was donated in 2019 - and in 2020, there are even more opportunities for non-profits.

Click here to apply for a 2020 community grant.

The Co-op is getting a refresh

We are giving our store a much-needed fresh coat of paint. We think you'll enjoy the changes!


The painting team will begin our project on February 5th, 2020 with a start time of 9pm.


The entire retail store, deli serving area and interior seating area will receive a fresh new coat of paint.


If all goes as planned, our painting project should be finished by February 20.

Will Store Hours Change?

No. We will be painting from 9pm to 5am.

Explore citrus!

Looking to explore 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.)

Explore citrus varietiesMore citrus varieties


Taste for Life winter wellness giveaway

It's a month of giveaways from Taste for Life!

Giveaway #1 has finished up - so it's time for #2! This giveaway runs 1/27-2/2, so sign up below.

This package includes: NOW's Sabucus Zinc-C lozenges, Mushroom Wisdom's SX-Fraction, Bluebonnet's Stress Release formula, ChildLife's First Defense immune formula, Vitafusion's Organic Women's Multi vitamin, Quantum Health's Eye Health supplement, Kyo-Green Sprouts Blend digestion supplement, Solgar's full spectrum Curcumin supplement, and Solgar's No. 7 joint comfort supplement. 

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.