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 Plastic is all around us. The useful material shows up in shopping bags, utensils, toys, clothes, and almost any other conceivable item found in 21st century America. The obvious utility of this ubiquitous substance sometimes obscures its shortcomings. The vast majority of plastic used in the United States is derived from petroleum.  Odds are, if you’re reading this newsletter, than you already understand the litany of ecological issues associated with using a spoon of petroleum to feed yourself. At the same time, we all have to eat, and not everyone carries a cutlery set or fabric bag on their person at all times. We at the Co-op recognize the need for affordable, easily available shopping accoutrements. We also take very seriously the responsibility given to us by our owners to conduct business while impacting the Earth as little as possible.
My goal here is to reveal the thought process behind why we use the kinds of plastic we do in-store. Broadly speaking, four kinds of plastic are available for us to use in our store materials.
  • 1) Petrochemical Plastics from Virgin Materials:   Everyone loves fresh fruit, recently picked from the farm. And only the most devout Paleo-enthusiast would deny an affection for warm bread, newly baked from wholesome ingredients. When it comes to plastic, though, fresher isn’t better. We don’t want to contribute to the extraction of petroleum from beneath the Earth’s crust any more than we have to. Not to mention that most of these items will wind up sitting in a landfill for the next few thousand millennia.
  • 2) Biodegradable Plastics: Biodegradable plastics, in theory, are an improvement on the conventional kind. Microorganisms are able to break them into smaller pieces. Unfortunately, they are still just plastic. A “biodegradable” plastic fork eventually breaks down into microscopic plastic pellets, and thus it will remain for a geological epoch or two.
  • 3) Compostable Plastics: It’s plastic! It’s not made out of petroleum! It doesn’t just break down, but it can be composted!  Surely it’s too good to be true, right? Right.

    The compostable plastics available on the market today are almost exclusively made from GMO crops. The Co-op’s GMO policy states that “Our goal is to eventually remove products containing GMOs from the shelves of our store entirely, until nationwide labeling efforts are the standard.”.  The store has made the decision to not support the GMO industry, and we are therefore not going to purchase any more compostable plastics until we know for sure that the items we purchase are GMO free.

    More practically, supposedly “compostable” plastics aren’t always that easy to compost. The folks at Heartseed Farms, who currently take our compost, have recently informed us that the compostable utensils we had been using have not been breaking down.  Most compostable plastic only breaks down when processed by large-scale industrial composters. So, we are holding off on compostable plastics until the technology catches up with our sustainability and non-GMO goals.
 
  • 4)100% Recycled Content Plastic: Recycled plastic is made entirely from petrochemicals that have already been extracted from the earth and made into something useful. While we’d rather the oil stay in the ground to begin with, we’re willing to take advantage of what has already been used. By purchasing recycled items, we support the waste reclamation industry, hopefully spurring further innovation in the field of recycling and conservation. Not to mention, items like our reusable grocery bags are manufactured by the Roplast corporation right here in Butte County, from plastics used in local agriculture. While we wish there were a better option, recycled plastic products are the best choice for us at this moment.
I hope that this has revealed a bit about why the Co-op has opted to purchase 100% recycled plastic products in many of our departments. We are always vigilant for new opportunities to improve our operations’ ecological efficiency. And you (yes, you!) are the most important part of determining how many single-use items we use. Every time you bring in your own bag (or re-use one of our Roplast bags [don’t forget to get your sticker from a cashier!]) you prevent a new bag from being manufactured. Every time you use your own utensils to eat our delicious deli offerings, you reduce the demand for plastic cutlery. You, the Co-op owners and shoppers, are the single most important part of every part of our business—you will be the ones that make the Co-op the best that it can be.

Meet Lauren, Our Baker!

I grew up in a family where life revolved around food.  Not in an unhealthy way, but in a way that is unapologetically Portuguese.  We grew up with a love of food, cooking, and quality kitchen time.  I am a firm believer in cooking “old school”, which to me, is just cooking: make as much as possible from scratch and do not waste anything.  It’s no wonder then that my resume generally consists of food jobs. 
While living in San Francisco, I began to face health problems, years of health problems, which ultimately culminated in the diagnosis of Celiac Disease.  My love of food and cooking was completely and utterly shook to its core.  How can I possibly cook the way I always have without using any standard flours and gluten?  And more importantly, how can I eat baked sweets?
That question is where it all began.
Before I was diagnosed, I was always a cook, not a baker.  To be honest, I hated baking.  All that measuring, and standardized recipes; I had no patience for it.  But if I wanted to eat sweets in the morning (which is the appropriate time of day to eat them) I had to learn.  That was four years ago, and today I’m proud to say I am making delicious and wheat-free baked goods full-time as The Co-op’s lead baker.  I am also proud to announce that in addition to our cookies, scones and baked treats, I’ve now started baking whole loaves of gluten free bread!

THE CO-OP NOW OFFERS IT’S OWN
HOUSE-MADE GLUTEN FREE BREAD!

We are offering two different kinds.  One is made with butter and egg, and is a mix between a challah and a biscuit; while the other is made with our own gluten free flour blend, yeast, and olive oil, making it gluten free and vegan.  It is lighter in color and more delicate in flavor.  Both breads are light (not dense) and actually taste like bread.  We are also using these breads for our sandwiches in our grab and go case. Lauren Henderson
Lead Baker

So totally delicious right now. Come and get it.

Straus Family Creamery is a pioneer of environmentally sound practices. The proprietor, Albert Straus, converted his family’s farm into the first certified organic dairy west of the Mississippi in the early 1990s. In 1994, Straus opened the nation’s first 100% certified organic creamery, and have been making their own milk, ice cream, butter, yogurt, and sour cream ever since. Straus’s dedication to ecological progressiveness doesn’t stop with their organic practices; every level of Straus’s operations is designed to minimize any negative impact on the Earth.
Milk production is a very water-intensive process.  Fortunately, Straus Creamery has a very sophisticated water reclamation system. The surplus water extracted from raw milk during the yogurt-making process is filtered and re-used to clean the creamery’s equipment. The waste water from that step is then taken to the Straus Dairy where it is used to flush out manure from the cow barns. But that’s not all. The post-flush liquids are separated, and pumped into a methane digester (which generates electricity for the dairy). Finally, the loop is closed when water from the methane digester is reused to flush out the barns once again, or to irrigate pastures.
Straus is also well-known for its sustainable packaging. Anyone who has had the pleasure of drinking Straus milk knows about their reusable glass bottles (which are as good as cash here at the Co-op). Straus hasn’t scrimped on packaging research in their other products. In 2012, Straus worked with vendors to “lightweight” their yogurt packaging, leading to a double digit percentage drop in the weight of their plastic containers.
Our monthly newsletter doesn’t have enough space to document all the fantastic ways that Straus is striving to improve their already excellent operations. However, their website has oodles of in-depth information about the history and practices of the Straus Farm and Creamery. If you have some time to spend learning about where some of the best milk in California comes from, take a gander: http://strausfamilycreamery.com/

LETTER FROM THE BOARD 

Introducing our new Board of Director Officers:  
Secretary:  Phil Weintraub
Treasurer:  Jake Preston
Vice President:  Julia Murphy
President:  Olivia Peters-Lazaro

And the rest of your dedicated board members:
Sherri Quammen
Craig Almaguer
Dan Levine  
At the beginning of each year, the board is very busy getting the new team up to speed and trained on “what does the board do, and how do we do it?”  Another important item that gets decided at the beginning of each year is a set of goals that the board hopes to achieve in the year to come.  Last year the board, members, management, and staff worked together through a series of strategic conversations to come up with a long term Vision Statement, Strategic Plan, Ends Statement for the Co-op.  A huge amount of work went into these end products and we are so proud!  The board will be using all of these documents to come up with current goals for 2014.   
Strategic conversations never end though:  How can we as Co-op owners make sure that our store really serves our needs, our dreams, and our community?  Being a board member is a great way to have a big impact on the answering this question through our policy governance documents.  The board can only do this with everyone’s imput, so we always invite you to talk to us at the Owner Appreciation Days, send us an email, or come by one of our monthly meetings.  
Olivia Peters-Lazaro
Board President

5th Annual Seed Swap Promises to be an Exciting Spring Kick-off Event

Located at the Chico Grange Hall, 2775 Nord Ave, on Sunday, March 16th from 2-6pm, the 5th Annual Seed Swap is a celebration marking the arrival of Spring and the gardening season. The Seed Swap is a free event and will include the seed exchange itself as well as speaker presentations and community seed stories, local vendors and non-profits as well as food, music and other activities for people of all ages.  
Bringing our community together to promote gardening and seed saving is the focus of the Seed Swap events.  In addition to the traditional exchange of seed there will be local vendors selling plants, seeds, vegetables, as well as garden tools.  Chico Natural Foods Cooperative will be selling food and drinks. Community non-profits and others will share information on seed saving, gardening and agriculture related resources. Ongoing activities for both children and adults, such as making seed balls, will happen throughout the day and live music will be performed in between the presentations.  
The speaker presentations will begin at 2:15 with Kalan of Redwood Seeds who will share seed saving tips and illustrate the benefits and types of drought-resistant crops.  At 3:30 there will be a water panel of local experts describing the various ways to garden using less water.  And at 4:45 our community will be invited to share their personal short stories about seeds and gardening.  
The Seed Swap works in the same style as a potluck: there will be more than 8 tables each labeled with different types of seed, such as vegetables, flowers, natives, herbs and more.  Participants will leave their clearly labeled bulk or packaged seed on the appropriate table then continue around to the other tables and gather seeds that others have brought.  Often whole packets of seed are on the tables, but opening them and taking only what you need and sharing the rest is in the spirit of the Seed Swap.   
The event has grown to include exchanges of root divisions, cuttings, plants, and harvests as well.  Although bringing seed or plants to share is not a requirement, bringing your own pen and envelopes or other containers to put your seed in is a great help when collecting from the potluck. The Seed Swap is always free and is a fun way to bring in the Spring season for all members of our community.  
For more information about the 5th Annual Seed Swap on Sunday, March 16th visit the Chico Permaculture Guild website at http://chicopermaculture.wordpress.com/what-we-do/annual-seed-swaps/5th-annual-spring-seed-swap.   About the Seed Swap Team of Organizers and Sponsors -- The Chico Permaculture Guild and the GRUB Education Program are lead organizers for the Seed Swap. The Chico Grange Hall is generously hosting this event at their beautiful hall and the Chico Seed Lending Library (CSLL), Redwood Seeds, and Chico Natural Foods are sponsoring the 5th Annual Seed Swap.
818 Main Street | Chico, CA 95928 US
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