What is Membership?

Since the beginning, GreenStar's mission focused on making nutritious, whole food available to its members. But membership means more than just access to good, healthy food...

When you join the Co-op you become a Member-Owner of a locally-owned and cooperatively operated values-based business. We focus on the social and environmental impact GreenStar makes on our local and global community, as well as economic performance. We put our values first, and return all profits back to the Co-op or donate them to the community.

The co-operative business model has proven to be a strong alternative to traditional profit-driven businesses. And, for every dollar you spend in a locally-owned business or cooperative, 45 cents is return to the community, compared to only 13 cents when you spend a dollar at a chain store.

One Member – One Vote means your voice truly counts!

Like all consumer co-ops, GreenStar is owned and democratically run by the people who use the store. Unlike traditional corporations where the amount of a stockholder's investment determines his or her voting power, every member at GreenStar has equal voting rights. As a Member-Owner, you have an equal say in the future direction of GreenStar.

By investing and participating in your co-op, you're putting your values into action.

Through your Equity Share investment and patronage, GreenStar supports the health and well-being of our member-owners, our community and the planet by:

  • Purchasing from local farmers and businesses
  • Paying a livable wage
  • Using clean energy and recycled office supplies
  • Supporting organic agriculture and fair trade producers
  • Offering health insurance to employees
  • Donating to local charities and events
  • Providing education on nutrition, health and sustainability
  • Improving access to healthy food to those on limited budgets through the FLOWER program



Member-Owner Input is Vital for Equity Decisions

By Alexis Alexander, 

Membership Manager

welcome-back-StudentsAs I write this article, college students are flooding into town and our staff is busy processing scores of new memberships. August is our busiest new membership month. In 2010, we processed 220 new memberships, 78 more than the next highest month. We're on track for another stellar year, with 95 new memberships sold in just the first 14 days.

Our popularity among new students reflects our general experience at GreenStar. People's interest simply keeps growing, whether their motivation is the natural products we sell, the cooperative economic model with its focus on local sustainability, or simply the community spirit in our stores. Our most recent membership tally shows us topping the 8,000 member mark, with new membership sales of 1,005 so far this year.

This growth highlights the importance of our expansion goals. It is no secret that we are bursting at the seams, having outgrown our space a while ago. We simply can't meet the needs of our member-owners and customer base in the limited square footage and parking space available at the West-End and Oasis stores. Desires such as expanded food offerings and eating space for our Deli, more retail space to accommodate the varying needs of our growing membership, and better classroom, meeting and office space raises the critical question of how much money we need to meet our expansion goals.

It's also true that our membership continues to broaden geographically. Roughly 37 percent of our membership lives outside the Ithaca zip code area. Adding satellite locations is one way to ease our growing pains. Collegetown has always been a consideration, but now we're hearing requests for other locations, such as the Lansing/Groton/Dryden area.

If, where, and (in some matters) how we expand are decisions that require a membership vote. First and foremost, our expansion plans, whatever they are, will require a significant amount of capital expenditure. As we move forward, decisions will need to be made on how to generate needed capital, including decisions on whether to increase our current member-owner equity fee, change our installment plans or conduct a member-owner loan drive.

As member-owners, we contribute an equity investment of $90, which is maintained separately from our operating income and can only be used for capital investments approved by Council. Given our strong membership growth over the years, we've built a strong cash base through member-owner equity payments. However, to support a sizable expansion, we need to build that base further to improve our borrowing power with the banks. Council and management discussions suggest that even with a member-owner loan drive, building our cash base through a change in equity structure is necessary to secure the financing required for an expansion. Council plans to bring a proposal to the membership for a vote in the spring of 2012. The proposal will likely include both an increase in equity fee and a shortening of the payment cycle.

Increasing equity rates is a tricky issue, one that requires balancing our capital needs with our desire to remain accessible to the whole community. Through the FLOWER program and enhanced outreach and recruiting efforts, we've been successful in making GreenStar membership accessible to a greater number of low-income individuals within our community. Our equity decisions will surely impact this group, but our decisions will also impact middle-class member-owners who are now facing increasing financial hardship. This is just one reason why member-owner involvement in these discussions is essential.

There will be plenty of opportunity for member-owner input between now and the equity vote in the spring. Once Council has developed equity structure options, we will conduct member-owner focus groups to obtain feedback from member-owners on the proposals. We will also have a Member Forum on Thursday, Oct. 6, where member-owners can ask questions and voice their opinions on expansion, equity structure and any other GreenStar-related topics of interest. Our Fall Member Meeting is another opportunity to engage with Council and other member-owners, and member-owners are always invited to attend Council meetings. Look in future issues of GreenLeaf for updates on expansion plans and developments.

Cooperatives exist to meet the needs of the member-owners. The sole purpose of an expansion for GreenStar is to enable the Co-op to better meet those needs. Now, more than ever, it's important that we hear from member-owners about what they want and need from their Co-op.


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