Signs of Sustainability: Let’s help GreenStar walk the walk!

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For more than 40 years, GreenStar has been widely loved as an alternative to traditional commercial supermarkets and a focal point for services, education, and community activities in the greater Ithaca area. But it is much more than that. As a cooperative owned by its 13,000 members, it’s the embodiment of values we share as a community. Sometimes, when we step back and look at it, it teaches us something about ourselves.


This is one of those moments. As GreenStar moves to a larger space, it has many hard choices to make. It just made the particularly courageous decision to invest in measures that will greatly improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the new building. This is a classic case of paying a little more up front for something that will reap major rewards in the future -- and it couldn’t have come at a more critical time. The groups listed at the bottom of this article applaud this decision and ask the community to step up and support it.


Understanding that sustainable energy use begins with building
efficiency, GreenStar is adding extensive new insulation to walls and roof, has chosen to rebuild with LED lights and energy efficient appliances, install high quality windows, and opted to use super-efficient Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs) for 100 percent of the building’s space heating and cooling needs. Taken together, these features make the building’s total energy efficiency 40 percent higher than required by current codes. Those heat pumps, and indeed all the building’s systems, will be powered by renewable solar energy. GreenStar is also making it easy for individual co-op members to take advantage of inexpensive community solar. Like all of us, GreenStar has more work to do to achieve zero carbon emissions, but it’s helping to lead the way right now.


Thousands of us who know GreenStar from the inside out know that the co-op’s success is built on a spirit of mutual support. GreenStar is not just a great destination to buy organic vegetables, it’s also a crucial source of support for the region’s small farmers. In 2007, GreenStar formed GreenStar Community Projects (GSCP), a non-profit that enhances the efforts of innumerable local organizations and grassroots teams to strengthen our local food system. The co-op supports GSCP with funding and access to facilities such as meeting places, classrooms, and kitchens. GreenStar also shows its commitment by accepting member labor hours for work done in the community. Members have the option to provide two hours of their labor (either in the store or with GSCP in the community) in exchange for a 15.5 percent discount on all groceries for a week.


According to executive director Holly Payne, GSCP’s mission is to build a community food system that sustains the earth and nourishes everyone. A great example is the resoundingly successful Childhood Nutrition Collaborative, which seeks to ensure that all of Tompkins County’s children have access to nourishing food. The Collaborative aligns the efforts of grassroots teams with larger nonprofits, university, and local government partners. This results in strong, active networks with greater reach, more comprehensive coverage, and more opportunities for learning and growth. It all leads to better outcomes for hungry children and allows for a thriving network of school and community gardens.


There are many reasons to support GreenStar as it grows. Building community takes vision, passion, effort, and collaboration. It also costs money. The air source heat pumps are a perfect example. While they will provide many benefits in the long run, they have added $300,000 in up-front costs to an already tight budget.


Cultivate Your Co-op! Right now, GreenStar member-owners can directly support the co-op’s growth by investing in its Capital Campaign for expansion and relocation to 770 Cascadilla Street. Current co-op owners residing in New York State can learn more about GreenStar’s Owner Investment Program by contacting Heidi Adami and Laura Buttenbaum at capital@greenstar.coop or (607) 220-7887. Supporting your community-owned co-op is a truly local, socially responsible investment that ensures GreenStar delivers on the triple bottom line of People, Planet, and Profit.


If you aren’t already a GreenStar member-owner, joining is easy and rewarding! Visit greenstar.coop to find out more.


Jonathan Comstock is the program director of HeatSmart Tompkins. This article is endorsed by Solar Tompkins, Sustainable Tompkins, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, Get Your GreenBack Tompkins, and Mothers Out Front. This is the latest installment of the Signs of Sustainability series produced by Sustainable Tompkins. For more information about the organization, visit their website at SustainableTompkins.org.

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