Week 5: Be co-operative!

I was pretty knocked out part of last week due to illness, which unfortunately left me a bit behind on my studies, as well as my world-changing plans. We have checked out some Farmers Markets in the area, but there is still lots more to explore, so I decided to leave this topic for now and share with you something maybe even more awesome and inspiring: Our university food co-op!

The co-op, called ‘The Food Hive’ is part of our university’s environmental hub, and for a newbie zero-waster like me the perfect place to start some of my world-changing. It’s a student led co-op with all kinds of dry and nonperishable food ranging from oats to chocolate to pasta to oil to even eggs and more. All is organic and bulk bought, which is a rather hugely lower price to store-bought organic products. And the best: it’s absolutely zero waste! So every once in a while, I fill my cupboards with this organic goodness straight into my jars! I cannot praise them enough.

Other kinds of foods they have include soy milk, coffee, peanut butter, various spices and more. All of what they sell has been ethically produced, i.e. fair trade or without palm oil. Unfortunately, the selection is carefully restricted by university, so they cannot buy any processed, cooked or fresh foods, which is quite a shame for my personal zero waste efforts.

Another thing they do is a veg bag scheme in cooperation with an organic farm in the area, providing students every week with a bag full of organic and seasonal vegetables only for £5, which is, quite frankly, a real bargain. And again here: no packaging (we return the bags), no waste.

Why am I telling you all this anyway? Because food co-ops are an amazing institution for likeminded people to come together, gather their resources and combine their powers to get the food they want in their terms. For me, it is an amazing resource for unpackaged, nice food, affordable as well as social, and advice from a community (I’m further involved in the environmental team).

For people planning to start or volunteer at a co-op, whether in their community or university, there is great support from local people or authorities, as well as demand for cheap, bulk-bought products (as they are essentially cheaper than in the shop!). Most of the time, it just takes somebody to take the first step, to propose the whole thing and coordinate people who wish to be involved, and it will start growing by itself.

When I leave university, I won’t forget the power of many people to get what they want, not only if it’s about food, but many products we have no chance but to buy for the lack of alternatives. I believe that if there is a demand, we shouldn’t rely on big supermarkets etc. to come up with a product for us. If we want unpackaged bananas (they have a PEEL for God’s sake!), we need to stop buy the plastic-wrapped bananas.

Hopefully somewhere someone sometime in the future reads this and maybe realises that this is exactly what was missing in their community, what will help them reach their zero waste goal or simply will get them to pass their spare time volunteering somewhere like this. I really wish to inspire people, especially students, to not let their efforts be wasted by ‘This is the way it is’, but if you really think this is what your community/campus needs, go ahead and start it!

If you want to check out what I’m talking about, have a look here: http://www.stirlingstudentsunion.com/environment/green-and-blue/food_hive/

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