In 2008 we began crafting a 20 year plan to make us a more sustainable organization. There have been (and will be) many challenges on the path to sustainability, but most of our projects have, so far, been quite successful. As we sit down this Winter to revise and update our long term goals, it seems like a good opportunity to revisit some of the things we have accomplished so far.

The Natural Step Framework

The Natural Step Framework is based on systems thinking; recognizing that what happens in one part of a system affects every other part. Think of a soccer team. We can’t understand why the team lost the game until we look at how each player--the goal keeper, defenders and forwards--all worked together on the field. We won’t learn much if we just study one member of the team. The TNS Framework gives an organization the tools to look at the whole team, understand the rules of the game, define success, and move towards it together.

Annual Reporting Commitment

In 2008, Ashland Food Co-op became a member of the Sustainability Food Trade Association (SFTA). This organization provides business in the organic food trade with guidelines and recommendations for how to embody sustainability in their own operations. The Co-op has adopted its own Sustainability Vision based on the principles of The Natural Step and the 11-point action plan from SFTA’s Declaration of Sustainability in the Organic Food Trade. Our reports are organized using our Four Sustainability Goals.

Each year, we strive for continuous progressive improvement and to practice transparency in annually auditing our performance and selecting reporting metrics that are relevant to our business. These reports are compilations of information we have collected and intend to submit to the SFTA to qualify for ongoing membership in the association.

Food Packaging Study

All packaging materials impact the environment. In fact, nearly a third of municipal waste in the U.S. is packaging. In 2005, Ashland Food Cooperative engaged an intern from Southern Oregon University to investigate the environmental impact of food packaging, as well as an evaluation of paper and plastic bags.

As Ashland Food Cooperative digs deeper into what sustainability means, these kinds of reports are essential to our understanding of our beginning benchmarks. Please enjoy reading this report.