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This business works to provide zero waste alternatives, organic produce, and natural products from organic farms to their store. This helps to solve the SDGs of 'No Hunger' and 'Responsible Consumption' by allowing organic farming to provide more sustainable packaging and products than those of commercial products and packaging.
The sustainable aspect of zero waste came about in 1997 as the owners and board members of the business wished for a more sustainable approach to the products in the store that would put less of a burden on the environment. The reason for this was more importantly due to the fact that they wanted the next generation to have something to work or to "leave the earth ready for the next" as stated by Jeff Ingram, board member and Facilities Coordinator of the Kent Natural Foods store. Specifically, the business wishes to present growth in the community with the zero waste sustainable aspect.
The business wishes to become an oasis of green and sustainable products that will help the community around it realize the importance of being green. Those involved in the business wish to learn more about green economy in order to see other businesses pick up the same tactics of using sustainable ways to operate. Since the business is local and so is the farming, there is less trucking which allows less pollution from long distance trucking of products.
The cycle of acquiring their farm goods from farms that are located relatively locally and then distributing these farm goods back into the community bodes well for the sustainability aspect of Kent Natural Foods. This method allows for the community to eat foods that are grown right in their own backyard, so to speak. Kent Natural Foods also encourages volunteer work, allowing residents of Kent to give service back to the community that they live in. Kent Natural Foods is a company that is very aware of any impact that they have on society and they make their best efforts to reduce any negative impacts on our society. They are one of many stores located within Kent that are society-oriented and, hopefully, more places of business will follow suit with the example that Kent Natural Foods is presenting.
The owner started the business from an idea in 1971 that was centered around a co-op community project. The forty-year history of the store has experienced plenty of setbacks since its beginning as it started as a buying club before a fire burned down the original store, forcing a move and reconstruction of a new store. Founding members contributed amounts from $35 to $50 towards the store in order to purchase the store that stands today, a worker-owned cooperative. The co-op idea arose after the tragic events of the May 4th shooting at Kent State, which encouraged shop owners around the Kent community and the residents of Portage county to come together and help one another. The food co-op community project was made with the stores up and down the streets of downtown Kent, coming together for positivity in light of the negative impact that the shooting had on everyone at the time.
The overall impact of the innovation is a green business that allows its members to be dedicated to impacting the community in a green way. This business is dedicated to building local food networks and providing locally grown and bottled products. The short term effects of the innovation are that it helps improve the nutrition of the community by continuously selling healthy produce and products. By improving what produce comes into the community, it increases the spread of good health and awareness of healthy living. Another short term effect of this innovation is the economic gain to the store that this green initiative brings. The members are able to volunteer to help the co-op and earn discounts by helping with things such as planning committees, working shifts in the store, helping with store repairs, and even helping to hand-package the produce.
The long term effects of this innovation is that it promotes sustainable agriculture which for small farmers around the world that depend on their environment, see as a good thing to influence people to check more into what they eat. Also, it can create agriculture jobs as a long term effect because more people will be interested in possibly trying to advance agriculture in order to achieve food security. Food security is something that can be gained through proper farming and allowing for agriculture to be done in a way that doesn't take much from the earth but rather has a give and take relationship instead.
This innovation benefitted the business because it helped to expand the business from 600 members to the slowly increasing 2,000 members that each individually do their own part to help visit the farms associated with the business. Each member does something different for the business as there are several departments that make up the business as a whole, so all members help with their respective departments. The zero waste initiative helps open new markets for the store as they garner attention with this proactive approach and Jeff Ingram spoke specifically of an all natural product company, 7th Generation, and currently has a contract with the business to "help provide healthy, organic products from trustworthy vendors".
Since the business uses a co-op centered business plan, they also help with the store operations as well as the overall operations of the business. There are currently 14 staff members, made up of both regular staff and board members that oversee the day-to-day for the store. Starting out, the business did not have enough capital to function smoothly and so the workers had to be paid in food, but after hard work they purchased the current store and made improvements to it. The store is now computerized, has fresh and expansive inventory, and continues to build relationships with local farms and quality vendors. There are still future plans for improvements and expansion in the works, so the store is not stopping while there is still more work to do to it and the community.
Being able to completely include the zero waste innovation throughout the store is really game changing. The store has an entire section dedicated to bulk good that allows for the average consumer to easily find what they need and be able to purchase it sustainability without packaging. The need for a zero waste initiative emerged from needing to take that next step forward and doing even more for sustainability. It wasn't enough to have recyclable packaging so the next step was removing packaging. This innovation does definitely contribute to the general mission of responsible consumption. Moreover with this innovation the average day to day consumer has the ability to buy some of their herds and such with absolutely no packaging.
This innovation benefits society and the environment by encouraging the members and the community to respect everyone, no matter what race, religion, sexual orientation, or other way of identifying oneself. This innovation helps to operate a responsible cooperative market that serves the community green products leading to a green initiative surrounding the stores image. Providing healthy, natural foods at fair prices and in bulk without chemicals or additives and that's locally grown, allows for others to want to help and be a part of the cooperative. Co-op markets are not a new innovation however being able to successfully implement is innovative. There was a financial necessity to make the store a co-op store but also it help build a steady supportive market ready to invest into the sustainable mission. In general being a co-op business really help individuals be connected to the business as well as feel socially responsible to do what they can to connect with the local community and consume responsibly.
Cooperation, information-sharing, and community outreach are all good things for society and the environment that this business believes in and wishes to work on. Doing more and better for the environment ensures sustainable consumption and production patterns that allows for future generations to enjoy a good quality of life. The zero waste innovation of the store tries to lessen the burden on the earth as the population allows for the Earth to take a large burden in order to support the world population. The store's image of sustainability and actively promoting natural products, makes people curious of how to get involved and how to help communities make sustainable improvements to farming practices and lifestyles.
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Jeff Ingram, Board Member
This business is dedicated to bringing healthy, natural produce and products to the Kent community. They wish to encourage cooperation with their members and consumers while respecting others without regards to ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, or any other way of identifying oneself.