What is Membership?

Since the beginning, GreenStar's mission focused on making nutritious, whole food available to its members. But membership means more than just access to good, healthy food...

When you join the Co-op you become a Member-Owner of a locally-owned and cooperatively operated values-based business. We focus on the social and environmental impact GreenStar makes on our local and global community, as well as economic performance. We put our values first, and return all profits back to the Co-op or donate them to the community.

The co-operative business model has proven to be a strong alternative to traditional profit-driven businesses. And, for every dollar you spend in a locally-owned business or cooperative, 45 cents is return to the community, compared to only 13 cents when you spend a dollar at a chain store.

One Member – One Vote means your voice truly counts!

Like all consumer co-ops, GreenStar is owned and democratically run by the people who use the store. Unlike traditional corporations where the amount of a stockholder's investment determines his or her voting power, every member at GreenStar has equal voting rights. As a Member-Owner, you have an equal say in the future direction of GreenStar.

By investing and participating in your co-op, you're putting your values into action.

Through your Equity Share investment and patronage, GreenStar supports the health and well-being of our member-owners, our community and the planet by:

  • Purchasing from local farmers and businesses
  • Paying a livable wage
  • Using clean energy and recycled office supplies
  • Supporting organic agriculture and fair trade producers
  • Offering health insurance to employees
  • Donating to local charities and events
  • Providing education on nutrition, health and sustainability
  • Improving access to healthy food to those on limited budgets through the FLOWER program



Traveling to Austin and Thinking about Binghamton

By Alexis Alexander, 

Membership Manager

Book-People1In the July GreenLeaf, I wrote about a presentation on GreenStar's diversity and inclusion efforts that I co-delivered with Council President 12th Moon at the annual Consumer Cooperative Management Conference (CCMA) in Austin, Texas. This month, I'd like to share another story about my Austin adventure.

CCMA always starts on a Thursday afternoon with various tours for the participants. Each tour includes a number of stops to educate participants about the area. These may include local farms, urban gardens, architectural or historical places of interest, community development projects, and other co-ops. All the tours share one stop in common — the local food co-op hosting the conference.

This year, I selected the "Local Tour," which focused on successful local businesses, including BookPeople, Waterloo Records, Amy's Ice Cream, Black Star Co-op (the world's first cooperatively owned and employee "self-managed" brewpub), and, of course, our host, Wheatsville Food Co-op. While those who know me best will say I chose this tour for the ice cream, truth is that my interest was piqued when I read that the owners of BookPeople and Waterloo Records would be speaking about how the stores have thrived during a time when so many independent book and music stores have gone out of business. It's a subject close to my heart, although I have to admit the idea of having the best ice cream in town didn't hurt my decision making any!

What I wasn't expecting was that I already knew the story that I would hear from Steve Bercu and John Kunz, co-owners of the two stores. Back in 2002, the city of Austin was going to provide over two million dollars of incentives to Borders Books and Music for a proposed store on a site right next to the two independent stores. Alarmed by the news, an association of local business owners fronted the money for a study to measure the economic impact on the community of local businesses vs. corporate retailers. (At this point, the story started to sound very familiar.)

The study compared figures from a typical Borders store to actual financial records from BookPeople and Waterloo Records. The researchers found that spending $100 at Borders generated $13 of local economic activity, while spending the same amount at BookPeople and Waterloo Records generated $45.1 The difference was traced to the facts that local stores have a higher local payroll, purchase more goods locally, and retain a much larger share of their profits in the local economy. Presented with this information, along with the likelihood that Borders would put the two local retailers out of business, the city dropped the project.

I sat there astounded and exhilarated. It was like suddenly seeing a person you always wanted to meet right in front of you. What can I say — my background is in market research, so it was fascinating to me that they were speaking about the very same study whose results I'd been quoting for years. While I remembered the study well, I had totally forgotten who the players were.

So why am I thinking about Binghamton?

Currently, a group of dedicated individuals is working in collaboration with the Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition to form the Many Hands Food Co-op in the downtown area, which currently lacks an affordable, accessible grocery store. To date, they have incorporated as a cooperative and have been awarded a $10,000 matching seed grant. They're actively raising money and signing up member-owners (250 to date!). GreenStar has been supporting their effort by sharing information and resources. Specifically, a letter is being sent to our member-owners who live in the Triple Cities area to encourage them to help the new co-op get off the ground.

The Many Hands Food Co-op is just one of many start-up co-ops in the works across the country. According to the Food Co-op Initiative, 65 food retail co-ops have opened in the past five years, creating more than 500 full-time jobs and generating over $100 million in sales.2 Just think of the money staying in those local communities from these ventures. And, with 116 more communities actively forming new co-ops, together we really can make our national economy stronger.

As always, I find myself totally inspired by the power of what we, as a co-op, participate in creating, first at the local level and then beyond. That inspirational feeling extends to all the independent local business owners, like Steve and John, who work with such dedication to empower and improve the communities in which they live.

1 http://www.ilsr.org/key-studies-walmart-and-bigbox-retail/#1

2 www.cooperativegrocer.coop/articles/2013-04-11/food-co-op-initiative—three-years