Getting a buzz out of going green
Published 7 Jul 2017
More planet-friendly packaging, home-sourced containers and biodegradables are all helping Midcounties cut out single-use plastics
When we shop, we buy our drinks in plastic bottles, our deli produce in plastic cartons and our ready meals in plastic trays. Even our fruit and vegetables come wrapped in plastic. And at the checkout, we get plastic carrier bags to carry our shopping home. Plastic is everywhere and, when we use it just once, we’re not only piling pressure on our recycling service, we’re also in danger of polluting our oceans, damaging the fish in the sea and littering the environment. But at Midcounties Co-operative a move is under way to reduce single-use plastics, in stores across our various Trading Groups, and at colleague and member events.
‘It’s important to reduce the use of the things such as knives, forks, drinking bottles and bags that are used just once and then thrown away,’ explains Mike Pickering, Co-operative social responsibility manager. ‘Small changes can make a difference.’
The Travel Foundation has helped two rural Mayan enterprises access the tourism market while remaining in their community: Pithahí Jungle jams, a group making jam from local fruit, and Much Kaab, the Los Juárez beekeepers’ co-operative 60km from Cancún, making honey-based products such as shampoo, soap, creams and lip balm.
The Travel Foundation provided the two groups with training to run eco-friendly businesses and forged links with large hotels, encouraging them to change their policies and buy local products to showcase authentic culture.
Beekeepers were also taught about conserving the Melipona beecheii bee, a unique stingless bee that is in danger of becoming extinct because of pesticides and the destruction of their rainforest habitat. Fortunately, bee numbers have doubled since the project launch three years ago.
Araceli says: ‘This project is very important to me. It has given me the opportunity to develop, as a woman and within my community, and provided me with an income to help educate my daughters.’ The project – and others like it in communities near and far – is partly fuelled by Co-op Energy customers on the Green Pioneer tariff. Midcounties will be donating more than £20,000 to the foundation this year, based on the number of Green Pioneer customers. As well as helping people like Araceli and her beekeeping colleagues, the Green Pioneer tariff decreases the reliance on fossil fuels, reducing the impact on the environment, and provides 100 per cent green electricity to power homes.
Co-op Energy no longer buys electricity from coal-fired powered stations, and customers can choose where the company sources some of its solar-, wind- and hydro-produced electricity. Switching is easy and takes just a few minutes, and a simple online tick-box form allows customers to see how much they could save. Each year a report is sent to all customers on the tariff showing exactly how it contributes to the wider Co-op Energy activity, plus other green community grants such as solar panels on schools.
The Midcounties Co-operative, which Co-op Energy is part of, is also participating in a Carbon Offset scheme to reduce the carbon emissions produced by the travel industry. Graeme Jackson, Head of Partnerships at the Travel Foundation, says: ‘This is a very exciting partnership with Midcounties. We will use funds to help understand the impact of tourism and how it can be better for people and the planet.’