We think co-ops are fabulous. Cooperation is, after all, a word that implies people working together towards the same end, mutually benefitting one another and the larger community. Both economically beneficial and socially responsible, these community-minded businesses make the world a better place — and that’s a beautiful thing. Here are five fab reasons to celebrate co-ops:

1. October is National Co-op Month

The cooperative model is unique. A co-op exists to serve its members, but the members are also the owners. With ownership comes an opportunity to participate in some co-op decision-making and to reap economic rewards for ownership, often in the form of patronage dividends.

Globally, there are nearly one billion people who are cooperative member-owners. And in the United States, there are more than 29,000 co-ops, including  — but not limited to— retail food co-ops. Beyond your neighborhood food co-op, cooperatives exist in other areas such as brew-pubscoffeedairy farmscredit unionselectrichardware stores, crafts, housing and chocolate to name a few.

2. The magnificent 7

Cooperative businesses proudly operate with seven principles. One of those principles is concern for community, working towards more sustainable communities through initiatives undertaken by management under Ends approved by a democratically elected Board.

Co-ops are positioned to respond directly to community needs and collaborate with other organizations, setting goals that extend beyond financial growth. By shopping at a co-op, you might be helping to support your community with hunger relief, nutrition education or environmental conservation.

3. DOTcoop

Look up to the top of your browser. Find that familiar address bar and the notice DOTcoop at the end of our URL. As co-op fans, we like to brag about this little badge of honor that demonstrates major credibility. The .coop puts co-ops on par with the web domains like .org, .edu and .gov. Co-ops have their own domain so that when you’re on .coop you can trust that you’re working with a verifiable cooperatively owned business.

4. Employees are some of our favorite people

Beyond offering awesome products and services, cooperatives are committed to the health and happiness of the people that fuel them. So it’s no surprise they treat their hard-working employees right. According to a recent study, the average food co-op earning $10 million per year in revenue provides jobs for 90+ workers. And, on average, 68 percent of those workers are eligible for health insurance, compared to 56 percent of employees at conventional grocers. Food co-op employees also earn an average of nearly $1.00 more per hour than conventional grocery workers when bonuses and profit sharing are taken into account.

5. Everyone is welcome

Are you ready for this final fabulous “did you know” moment? Okay, here it is: at co-ops, everyone is welcome. At food co-ops, you don’t need to be a member to shop or participate* (participation is totally optional, though, and the most common form of participation is voting in co-op board elections). Although membership is encouraged and often provides additional rewards, your local co-op is democratically owned and operated, and all consumers are welcome. So check out the fresh, delicious food that food co-ops have to offer and, if you want, get involved, no matter your capacity for commitment right now. Anyone can go co-op!

* Park Slope Food Co-op is the exception to this rule for co-ops affiliated with National Co+op Grocers. At Park Slope Food Co-op, being a “working member” is required to participate and shop there. Many co-ops were based on a similar model in the 70’s, but no longer have that requirement.