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South Lamar Store News

Our Green Features

Wheatsville Green Features

“The environment is where we all meet; where all have a mutual interest; it is the one  thing all of us share.” —Lady Bird Johnson

As a community owned co-op, we take our Cooperative Values & Principles very seriously. We fulfill the ideals of Principle #7, Concern for Community, in a number of different ways – one of which is being a good environmental steward. Through thoughtful, small daily actions – such as sorting our trash from recycling and compost after we eat – we can make a HUGE impact.
 
Thank you for doing your part – bringing your containers to refill, remembering your reusable bags, sorting your trash, composting, planting gardens, collecting rainwater, and for supporting your co-op!
 
Here are some things your co-op does to stay green:

  1. We recycle metal, cardboard, plastic, paper, glass, food scraps, and cooking oil
  2. Break it Down, our local recyclers, estimate that we divert 20 tons of cardboard each month between both stores. That’s the equivalent of 3 elephants!

  3. Break it Down also estimates that we divert 100 tons of recycling (cardboard, glass, and plastic) each month between both stores. That’s the same as 50 full-grown cows!

  4. Wheatsville is part of Austin Energy’s Green Choice program which uses the money we pay for utilities to build wind farms and help Austin reach its goal of 55% renewable energy use by 2025! Wheatsville came in at #29 on Green Power Partnership’s Top 30 Retail stores, you can view the full list here: www.epa.gov/greenpower/green-power-partnership-top-30-retail

  5. S. Lamar has 57 SolaTubes which use highly reflective fiber optic tubes to direct sunlight into our store so that we don’t have to use as much electricity. 

  6. Ceiling lights at S. Lamar adjust intensity depending on the amount of natural sunlight coming in from our SolaTubes.
  7. We only buy energy efficient coolers, refrigeration units, and equipment.

  8. We offer bulk refills of wellness products like Dr.Bronner’s soaps, lotions and laundry detergent!

  9. We use noVOC or lowVOC building materials and paint in order to have an odor-free store. 

  10. Our waterless urinal at S. Lamar saves 1.5 gallons of water per flush! 12 flushes per day saves 6,552 gallons of water per year!

  11. Our rainwater collection tanks at Guadalupe give us enough water to irrigate all of our landscaping!

  12. Our paper bags are made with 100% recovered fiber, minimum of 85% post consumer content, and are printed with water-based inks.

  13. Lots of bike parking, showers for staff, a bike to work benefit for staff members who ride 8+ hours/month. 

  14. Concrete parking lots, light paint colors, and awnings help keep us cool through the hot summers.

  15. Email receipts, double-sided receipts, and no receipts option significantly cut down the amount of paper register tape (BPA free) we have to buy.
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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repeat

As a co-op grocer, one of our guiding principles, Principle #7, is Concern for Community. For us, it’s important for us to find ways to recycle and divert as much of our reclaimable resources as we can in order to help create a more sustainable store and city.  Break it Down, a local recycling operation started in 2009 by Jeff Paine and Melanie MacFarlane, has helped us achieve our goals for many years. They have a 99% recycled rate and accept and sort plastic, glass, cardboard, paper, and inedible food scraps from local businesses, offices, condos and homes.

Reclaimed Resources for BOTH stores:

  • PLASTIC, GLASS + OTHER: approx 8 tons/month

  • CARDBOARD: approx. 20 tons/month

“Bales are delivered to a paper mill just outside of Dallas. There the boxes are pulverized and reformed into long spools of cardboard. Those spools are shipped to a plant in California that cuts and prints the recycled cardboard to fill custom box orders. The boxes can then be shipped to businesses all across the country.” - Break it Down

Allen Schroeder from Break it Down picking up recycled cardboard bales.

  • COMPOST  approx. 15 tons per month

Break It Down partners with Organics By Gosh, a composting facility on East MLK. After grinding and curing, the finished compost is bagged and sold at retailers. Just look for the Organics By Gosh name on the bag and know that a tiny bit of your co-op is in there!


Compost drums are emptied, readied for curing. Photo courtesy of Allen Schroeder

  • FOOD RECOVERY: approx 4,000 lbs. per month

In addition to diverting tons of resources for the waste stream, we also contribute to food recovery efforts. Alan Shroeder, our Food Recovery Coordinator , connects edible fresh foods with people that need it. On a weekly basis, we donate upwards of 1,000 pounds of fresh fruits, veggies, bread, and dairy to local community organizations around the city, including Blackland Community Center and South Austin Community Center. Alan started his food recovery efforts in 2008 and received a grant from Bread for the Journey to help get him started.

Recovered food ready for distribution. Allen Schroeder

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9 Ways We Keep Wheatsville GREEN

In honor of Earth Day this month, we thought we’d share some of Wheatsville’s GREEN FACTS.

1. Wheatsville  is WAY ahead of the curve when it comes to recycling.  Austin has just started implementing a plan that would get businesses recycling by 2017, but we’ve been doing it for years! We  currently recycle metal, cardboard, plastic, paper, food scraps and glass!

2. In fact, according to our local recyclers, Break it Down, between both stores, we divert 20 tons of cardboard each month!

3. If you look up at the ceiling at S.Lamar, you’ll notice about 57 bubbly looking lenses. These are called SolaTubes. They use highly reflective fiber optic tubes to direct sunlight into our store so that we don’t have to use as much electricity. During construction, these SolaTubes were very useful to help keep the job sight lit!

4. Wheatsville offers bulk refills of wellness products like Dr.Bronner’s soaps, lotions and laundry detergent!

5. Throughout the S.Lamar construction process, we chose noVOC or lowVOC building materials and paint in order to have an odor-free store.

6. In the men’s room at S.Lamar we’ve installed a waterless urinal. This saves 1.5 gallons of water per flush! That’s means if we save 12 flushes per day, we save 6,552 gallons of water per year!

7. Way before Austin’s bag ban, we were offering recycled boxes and paper bags to customers. Our bags are made with 100% recovered fiber with a minimum of 85% post consumer content. They are printed with water-based inks, are Forest Stewardship Council for responsible use of forest resources.

8. We offer front-facing recycling and composting to customers, and our recyclers at Break it Down say we’ve got the cities best sorters! They rarely see mistakes which in-turn helps them be more efficient.

9. As a cooperative we have elected to contribute to renewable energy infrastructure here in Texas by subscribing to Austin Energy’s Green Choice program. This program uses the money we pay for utilities to build wind farms and help Austin reach it’s goal of goal of 55% renewable energy use by 2025!

We also do things like rainwater capture to help us irrigate our planter boxes, use LED lights, installed low flow toilets and have added showers to S.Lamar in order to keep our bike riders pedaling.

And remember, we are offering a FREE composting class from the City of Austin, in our Community Room at S.Lamar on Saturday, April 23, at 10am. By taking the class and reducing the size of your garbage can, you are eligible for a $75 REBATE on a home composting system. Each attendee will get a countertop composter for attending! RSVP for the class today!

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Board of Directors Meeting Recap

UPDATE: May 27, 2015
Board of Directors Meeting

On Tuesday, May 26th the Board of Directors extended open time in order to accommodate comments from co-op members in attendance, wanting Wheatsville’s management to raise wages to meet the rising cost of living in Austin.

Chief Executive Grocer, Dan Gillotte, spent 30 minutes going over the wage presentation that would be shown to staff on Thursday, May 28th. The presentation included information about current wages and how they were determined, overall labor costs, an overview of co-op finances and possible areas that could be used to raise the wage scale. The CEG then took questions from attendees. Caution centered around long term sustainability for future growth regarding both price increases and labor costs, wage compression if only some wages were to be raised, and decisions regarding other compensation such as benefits and sick/vacation pay that would affect all staff members.

Following the staff wage presentation on 5/28 a committee of staff members will be assembled in order to decide next steps and recommendations for changes to the staff compensation package. The committee is expected to meet several times over the coming weeks and report back to the Board of Directors and CEG.

The Board of Directors then discussed overall monitoring of the co-op’s internal management, looking back at the staff survey results from March, 2015. The Board identified areas of concern regarding the grievance procedure, wages, and staff participation. The Board voted to form a committee regarding D6 - Staff Treatment and Compensation policy monitoring. The Board questioned whether the transparency issues that have recently been raised would also fall under the purview of the D6 committee or whether another committee should be formed. They will revisit the topic of a potential transparency at their next board meeting. 

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Statement from the Board of Directors

On May 13, 2015, the Wheatsville Board of Directors received an open letter from the Wheatsville Staff Solidarity Collective.  In the letter, the Collective expressed frustration over Wheatsville’s current wage structure.  The Board is deeply concerned about the well-being of employees and conducts yearly monitoring of staff treatment. We were alerted to staff dissatisfaction around pay by Dan Gillotte in March and received a plan in April for addressing the challenging issue of paying better and maintaining  Wheatsville’s financial stability. 

We will continue to explore the concerns raised in the spirit of cooperation and in line with Policy Governance.  As stewards of this great cooperative, the Board's role is to define policies and monitor operational outcomes that are consistent with cooperative values and principles.  We take very seriously Wheatsville’s Mission of creating a self-reliant, self-empowering community of people that will grow and promote a transformation of society toward cooperation, justice, and non-exploitation.

In cooperation,
Wheatsville Food Co-op Board of Directors

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Staff Satisfaction & Compensation

Open Letter to Wheatsville Staff, Members and Shoppers:

Wheatsville’s management and Board of Directors take wage issues and overall staff satisfaction very seriously and proactively check in with staff to make sure the co-op is meeting our employees’ needs. The management team became aware of wage dissatisfaction a few months ago through a regularly scheduled third party staff satisfaction survey.

We care deeply about our staff and their happiness, and leadership has been working on an action plan to address and remedy this challenging and important issue since receiving that feedback. We started rolling out the plan this month and look forward to continue working with our staff members to reach a resolution.

We’ve also recently become aware of a petition seeking to pay a living wage at Wheatsville, as well as some letters expressing grievances against some of Wheatsville’s employment practices. While we do our best to be transparent and available, we apologize that we missed the mark and disappointed some staff members.

We believe that our cooperative runs best with openness and honesty, and we are committed to improving staff satisfaction around compensation at Wheatsville.

Sincerely,

Dan Gillotte
Wheatsville Food Co-op
Chief Executive Grocer

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Eden Foods Decision

The results of our annual election are in and as of January 1st, 2015, Wheatsville Food Co-op will no longer sell any Eden Foods products or use them in our recipes. The issue of whether or not to remove Eden Foods products was decided by a democratic vote as outlined in our bylaws. Below is the final verified vote tally from our Annual Election.

We know that some of our customers have been enjoying Eden Foods products for years and will be disappointed to learn that we will no longer stock that brand. As a cooperatively owned retail grocery, we abide by the rules mutually agreed upon in our bylaws and the collective decision reached by our owners.  We appreciate the effort and time it took members of the co-op to bring this issue to a vote and are very proud of the cooperative and democratic process used to make the final decision.

We have included a recap outline of the petition process that led to this decision and have included answers to frequently asked questions below.



Summary of the Issue

Eden Foods is one of the oldest natural and organic food companies in North America and has been an industry leader in maintaining organic standards, directly supporting North American family farms, and providing Non-GMO assurance on all products. The brand’s line of BPA-free canned beans, condiments, soymilk and pastas has been carried at Wheatsville Food Co-op since the 80’s.

On March 20, 2013, Eden Foods filed suit against the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which administers the Affordable Care Act, for the right to opt out of contraceptive coverage for its employees.  Eden Foods objects to a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires companies, if they choose to offer health insurance to their employees, to include coverage of a wide array of contraceptive choices.

Here’s an excerpt from Eden Foods’ statement on the issue:
We believe in a woman's right to decide, and have access to, all aspects of their health care and reproductive management. This lawsuit does not block, or intend to block, anyone's access to health care or reproductive management. This lawsuit is about protecting religious freedom and stopping the government from forcing citizens to violate their conscience. We object to the HHS [Health & Human Services] mandate and its government overreach.

Wheatsville’s Response

In response to Eden’s stance, some customers inquired if the co-op would stop selling Eden Foods products. As a cooperative grocery, Wheatsville doesn't stop selling product in response to any political issues. The co-op serves a very diverse customer base and there are individuals on both sides of any issue. We believe that we can best serve our community by continuing to focus on providing healthy foods.

The co-op encourages customers to vote, on this and other issues, with their dollars by supporting those companies they like and believe in.  When (for any reason) products don’t sell, the co-op stops carrying them.

If the products in question, such as Eden Foods, continue to sell and see no significant decrease in support, the decision on whether or not to stop selling the product must be made through the petition process. This process is outlined in our bylaws as a way for owners to address issues like these in an open and democratic manner.

Petition and Election

By August 1st, 2014 Wheatsville members had gathered the necessary 500 owner signatures to submit the petition to the Board of  Directors. The required signatures were received and verified and so the issue was put to a vote in our recent election.

The co-op presented both sides of the issue and asked  owners whether or not the co-op should stop selling Eden Foods products.

After all the votes were verified and tabulated, the final vote was in favor of removing Eden Foods products from the co-op.


FAQ

  • When will Eden Foods stop being available?
    The co-op will sell down current stock and not place any reorders. The co-op will stop purchasing Eden Foods products for sale or use in recipes by 1/1/15.

  • Can a shopper still place special orders for the product?
    No. The co-op will no longer place special orders for Eden Foods products.

  • Will the co-op still cook with Eden products?
    No. The co-op will not use Eden Foods for ingredients in any of our housemade products.

  • Will the co-op have replacement products available?
    The co-op has identified all the items that would be affected by the vote and have made accommodations to find comparable replacements as available.

  • Can Eden Foods ever come back?
    The brand may come back to the co-op by the same process that took it off. A member petition would have to filed and endorsed by 500+ owners. The issue would then be put back on the general election ballot for a vote.

  • Have any other similar petitions been passed by owner election?
    Back in the 1980’s a petition was launched to not stock any wellness or bodycare products that were tested on animals. The petition passed and we can now say that we have a 100% cruelty-free wellness department.
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Eden Organics

Wheatsville Food Co-op has been receiving comments in the store and via social media regarding Eden Foods CEO's position on the Supreme Court's "Hobby Lobby" decision on June 30th, 2014. Eden Foods has expressed support for the Hobby Lobby ruling, and filed a similar complaint of its own against the U.S. government.

In response, some customers have inquired if the co-op would consider pulling Eden Foods products from our shelves. As a cooperative grocery, Wheatsville doesn't pull product in response to any political issues.  Our co-op serves a very diverse customer base and there are individuals on both sides of any issue. Instead, decisions on whether or not to pull products are made through the petition process, outlined in our bylaws, as a way for owners to address these issues in an open and democratic manner. Below is the section in our cooperative bylaws that pertains to this process:

3.3.3 Petitions Any matter that the owners wish to put before the ownership via a Co-op Vote may be placed on the ballot by a petition signed by at least 500 or five percent (5%) of the total number of owners in good standing, whichever is fewer. Proposals initiated by such a petition shall be included in the next regularly scheduled Co-op Vote, except that if a petition is signed by at least 1,000 or ten percent (10%) of the total number of owners in good standing, whichever is fewer, then the Co-op Vote shall be scheduled to commence no sooner than thirty days and no later than 60 days from the date the petition is submitted.

In order to have this, or any other matter considered on the next ballot, Wheatsville members would need to submit a petition to the Board of Directors by August 1st, 2014 with the next election cycle beginning September 1st, 2014.

As always, we encourage our customers and members to vote, on this and other issues, with their dollars by supporting those companies they like and believe in.  When (for any reason) products don’t sell, the co-op stops carrying them.

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