I once worked for at cooperative grocery store, Sevananda Natural Foods Market in Atlanta, GA. It’s a mid sized company with 85 employees. Actually, I worked there for little more than a year. I began in February of 2008 and only recently left in April 2009.
When I first began to work for the cooperative, I wouldn’t have cared about tossing a huge amount of paper and plastic into a garbage bin and seeing it quickly driven away to a dump site. But after working for a green company that espoused the teachings of cyclical environmental awareness, reduce, reuse and recycle, it’s hard to coincide these actions with my awakened morals.
On May 14, 2008, not long after I began my journey with Sevananda and before I was sold on green businesses, there sat a huge pile of empty cardboard boxes and used plastic food containers awaiting the staff members who had volunteered to clear out the warehouse. It was literally filled with garbage bins of recyclables. I tightly fastened my work gloves to get ready for the day ahead. This neglected pile was a mistake created by accounting. The waste management company we normally used had not been paid on time and so ended its contract with us. So we had to toss the pile of paper and plastic out into the dumpster. We had no other option as it was near the summer months and the warehouse was too damp to keep cardboard without attracting mold. There was a somber feeling to it, as though our actions were indeed killing the soil in which the waste would soon lay. After this senselessness, I began to understand the reason a business would go green.
While working at the store one day, I became interested in the solar panels that occupied the roof. The project to purchase and then wire the store’s electrical grid to these panels was, at its time, the only renewable energy project in Georgia. They would position the store to become totally carbon footprint free in a few years. The store even has a fancy sticker on its sliding entrance doors to prove it. These panels produce a scant 2.4 kilowatts of clean energy per hour, but it was not the number of kilowatts being created that was an important factor in the initiation of the project. It was the amount of hope being buoyed by the initiative.
The neighborhood is slow to change. Green living initiatives are pressing concerns for many in our nation, so these solar panels were a big deal. Having a store that offered a place to bring your recyclables to be processed was a big deal. Sevananda offers incentives to bringing your own shopping bags through weekly prizes and gift certificates. The store sponsors symposiums about the nature of going green and hosts chats and classes on these topics.
The best incentive Sevananda Natural Foods Market implemented in its green journey toward healthy living has not been the solar panels, but was the decision to be totally responsive to its community’s environmental health. Because going green is good for everyone, and it must be a shared responsibility. Maybe that’s why it works so well in the form of a natural food market cooperative named Sevananda.