Food Cooperatives as Vehicles for Disseminating Low-Carbon Approaches
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This paper explores whether food cooperatives can provide an effective vehicle for developing and disseminating low-carbon strategies and behaviors. Research included literature reviews and inquiries into the nature and behavior of food cooperative trade associations and retail operations. With a positive prospect for effective communications with stakeholders, a carbon change plan was created for managing “carbon reduction” change process in food cooperatives. An appendix of “Carbon Resources” was also compiled to assist food cooperatives and stakeholders in initial efforts to begin changes in carbon behavior. The results revealed an opportunity for food cooperatives to utilize their unique situation to communicate important information to their stakeholders. Food cooperatives, operating with a voluntary membership unified around food and using non-traditional commercial-exchange channels, provide a unique and potentially powerful model for spreading the message of sustainability and changing behaviors specifically toward reducing carbon emissions. Since food is a life sustaining source of nutrition and a fundamental source of social good, it provides a magnetizing point of social connectivity. Consequently, cooperatives organized around food offer the daily opportunity for interpersonal connections and social exchange. The membership network’s open communication channels offer a tremendous platform to initiate an important discussion of low-carbon initiatives and sustainability among stakeholders because most food cooperatives are: already committed to sustainability; receptive to changes in lifestyle and behavior; dedicated to member education, training and information; and work effectively together. Furthermore, carbon, climate change and food security are interrelated issues. Carbon, as we shall see, directly contributes to climate change. Climate change threatens entire agricultural regions and places food sources at risk. In a closed system with a finite resource base, waste combined with a growing population is not sustainable. At the same time, inefficiencies present both opportunities and incentives for improvements. Carbon reduction can become a prime target for such opportunities and incentives because carbon is a proxy for waste and waste is one metric of inefficiency.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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