Sustainable Shopping at Weavers Way
by Nima Koliwad, Weavers Way Co-op
The triple bottom line, or the “Triple P” approach—People, Planet, and Profit—is a core cooperative principle that guides the day-to-day practices at the co-op. We focus on “people” first—people whom we work with (staff and employees) and people whom we do business with (vendors and local business owners), and ensure we employ fair trade and ethical practices in our daily operations. “Planet” is next; we work hard to ensure our carbon footprint is as small as possible and offer sustainable choices to our customers. Although “profit” is very important (we are a business after all!), it tends to be the last factor in the triple bottom line scale. We want to create and share alternatives for and with our shoppers and allow them to make sustainable choices.
At Weavers Way, we are very proud of our bulk departments. Our stores offer a tremendous variety of bulk products. We have conventional and organic offerings to make shopping easy and accessible to all budgets. To promote shopping in bulk to save on costs and packaging, Weavers Way offers a 10 percent discount the first weekend of every month to members who bring their own containers to shop. Many members are pros at bulk shopping and will offer nifty tips and tricks to beginners.
Making a list is a top tip shared by veteran bulk shoppers. It might feel a little intimidating the first time you shop in the bulk department, but you will soon get the hang of it! Make a list before coming to shop and bring enough containers to buy all the bulk items on your list. Instructions are provided on how to label and weigh the containers and products. If you can reuse the containers, then you have all the information written down from the last time you shopped. Quick note: PLU# (price look-up codes) differ from store to store, so please check and make sure you have the right number before heading to the checkout counter.
The Container Return Program (CRP) is another important program that was launched last year at the co-op. Select items are packaged in glass or reusable jars and are available to shoppers as an alternative to conventional deli containers. Shoppers pay a small deposit when they buy a product in a reusable container, which gets refunded when they bring back the container to the store. The idea is to promote a culture in which the shopper has a choice and can shop at the co-op to ensure fewer plastic containers end up in a landfill. Currently, Weavers Way offers seasonal soups, peanut butter, house-marinated olives, Thompson raisins, walnut pieces, and salad greens in reusable, returnable containers. A shopper can simply wash out the container to remove any bits of residue and bring it back to the co-op. These containers get picked up, sanitized, and returned to the prep kitchen, where they are filled with yummy foods and readied for shoppers. This process was initiated at the co-op by our Plastic Reduction Task Force Committee. This member-led committee is always looking for ways to make shopping at the co-op easy and sustainable. Alisa Shargorodsky, a committee member and founder and CEO of Echo Systems, which works to eliminate single-use waste, outlined the backend of this program and makes it possible for the co-op to implement the Container Return Program. As of September, the co-op sold 7,280 returnable containers, of which 5,163 were returned and reused at the co-op. We are working on adding more products to this program; salads and grain bowls are next on the list. We are very excited to be able to offer our shoppers a plastic-free alternative at Weavers Way.