Part of the Co+op Forest, along the Huayabamba River in northern Peru.

By GreenStar Membership Department Staff

November has arrived, launching what many consider to be the season to give thanks, so it’s timely to reflect on our feelings of gratitude. Naturally, you might be thinking of how much you appreciate your family and friends, your home, or your good health. Maybe you’re remembering and honoring those who have sacrificed much, so that we can exercise our human and democratic rights. If you’re a member of a cooperative enterprise, you likely acknowledge and appreciate how this alternative business model is doing things differently — using cooperative principles to put our collective values into practice.

One of the most appealing attributes of being a GreenStar member-owner is that we support families and local farms by purchasing locally and regionally grown products. For every dollar you spend at GreenStar, more than half of it contributes to paying staff and our local farmers and producers. Last year, those purchases added up to a reinvestment of over $11.8 million into our local economy. The cooperative model provides opportunity for member-owners to invest not just money into GreenStar, but their time. More than 325 active volunteers contribute to the Co-op in various ways through the owner volunteer program — stocking shelves, helping at events, or serving on a committee or Council, our board of directors. Volunteers can accumulate work credit toward a store discount for themselves or as a gift to others. This significant level of involvement is part of what makes GreenStar unique and vital, enhancing the spirit of community that is critical to our mission and values.

GreenStar is owned and governed by you, our nearly 13,000 member-owners. One of the most distinctive characteristics of a co-op is your right to participate in the decision-making process through referendum voting, to run for a Council member position, and to elect Council member representatives. Co-ops prioritize the needs of their communities. For instance, GreenStar emphasizes healthy food access for all. Our Co+op Basics line of lower-cost products continues to grow and our FLOWER program, which serves people facing financial hardship, is a valuable resource for seniors, college students, and families of all kinds. Through co-ops, we see democratic control in action. Education, training, and information-sharing — for member-owners, Council members, managers, and employees — empower GreenStar’s community to learn and further develop our growing network of cooperators.

As cooperative memberships increase around the world, this international grassroots movement continually develops in size and influence. It’s awe inspiring! Working together through local, regional, national, and international structures, cooperatives take responsibility to collaborate in providing practical solutions to many economic, environmental, and social problems. As one example, members of National Co+op Grocers developed Co+op Forest to respond to the global climate crisis through rainforest reforestation and conservation projects. Launched in 2012, Co+op Forest is now a thriving region of Peru, home to more than 450 animal species. National Co+op Grocers also calculates its annual carbon emissions, then funds the planting or protection of a corresponding number of trees to absorb (or offset) that carbon. As trees naturally absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, this effectively slows the rate of climate change. Further, National Co+op Grocers provides resources to help co-ops reduce food waste and work toward plastic-free stores. This is just one example of how GreenStar’s membership in another cooperative enterprise helps the Co-op community extends its influence in combating social and environmental issues all over the world.

There are countless ways in which co-ops actively make a positive impact locally and globally. Thank you, fellow member-owners, for being part of the cooperative difference, and for collectively supporting our co-op and community to thrive.