After watching the film “Food, Inc.” this past summer, I sat for a moment in the theater thinking about the power of Big Industry.
There was the sound of sniffling behind me, and I turned around to find an overwhelmed woman in tears.
“I just feel so powerless,” she moaned.
I’m sure we can all identify with that feeling. It can make you feel so helpless to hear the news about unbalanced farm subsidies for Big Ag, labor violations in worldwide factories, health insurance companies; the list of unethical corporate activity is long.
So, what can we do about it?
I turned around in my theater seat and talked to the powerless woman. We talked about farmer’s markets and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and how even grocery stores now are learning to advertise their “local” produce because that’s what the people want. By changing where and how we spend our money, we force the corporations to wake up and address our needs. If we don’t buy their cheap meat and empty calories, they won’t be in business anymore.
But we have to be smart consumers. And being a smart consumer can be a really time consuming and difficult task. We are flooded with information on all sides, and it can be a complicated process to figure out prices, ethical labor practices, and all-natural foodmaking processes. Sometimes living ethically can be a full time job! And it can get expensive.
Buyer’s cooperatives are a great solution.
The labor of tracking down information about various products and corporations is spread out over the group, so you don’t have to do all of the research yourself. And collaboration is a great way to trade tips and recipes that you wouldn’t necessarily come across on your own.
Plus, buying products in bulk quantity is a great way to get discounts. Support positive business practices, and make your wallet happy too!
The folks over at the Bread and Butter Buyer’s Co-op describe their group this way:
What’s a co-op?
A co-op is simply a group of people getting together to buy large quantities of one or more products through one company so that we can receive large discounts (often up to 50% off, commonly referred to as wholesale pricing). All the products from one company must go to one address and some companies require a license to run the co-op, so it is necessary to coordinate our efforts to make this work.
They also list the products they purchase and the massive savings they receive:
We’ll start out small with just Frontier. Frontier is a great company that sells bulk foods and essential oils, but they also sell many, many other brands. Examples: Avalon Organics, Jason’s, Ecover, Seventh Generation, Diva Cup, Desert Essence, and Tom’s of Maine just to name a few. All items are 50% off of suggested retail price and each month they also put out a sales flyer, reducing prices on select products even more. To check out Frontier’s catalog flyer (this is a large file that takes a while to download).
As you can see, buyer’s co-ops help you purchase everything from bulk dry goods to BPA-free bento boxes. Resources like Google or Yahoo groups make it really easy for people to unite together, thus creating more and more networks of educated consumers. And by lowering the costs through buying these products in bulk, we can bring more customers to these ethical businesses.
We can sign all of the petitions we want, but it’s clear that what the corporations really care about it money. So let’s vote where it counts: with our wallets.
Aliza Sollins is an urban homesteader in Baltimore City, MD. Her adventures in vermicomposting, canning, container gardening, knitting and other sustainability projects can be found at her blog.