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



Exercising Our Right to Vote...Right Here at GreenStar

By Alexis Alexander, 

Membership Manager

12-12 Voting_Results_CSS_Web

What a November! Not only do many of us have the opportunity to vote in an all-important national election, but as GreenStar member-owners we also have the opportunity to vote on two very important measures here at the Co-op: the first measure replaces our two-percent discount with a Patronage Dividend system; the second is a proposal for a Collegetown satellite store.


My purpose today is not to talk about the merits of the proposals. Rather, I want to focus on why strong membership participation in GreenStar's voting process is so important to the Co-op's current well-being and future growth.

Voting is both an essential benefit and a responsibility of membership. According to the second Cooperative Principle, cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. As member-owners, one way we can actively participate in decision-making is through the democratic voting process. Every GreenStar member-owner is eligible to vote in Council elections, on member-sponsored referendums, and on policy matters that require a membership vote, as outlined in our bylaws.

Voting has ended. The Patronage Dividend measure failed to pass. The Collegetown Crossing store measure passed.


12-12 Voting_Results_PD_WebThe nature of voting in a cooperative model sets us apart from other traditional business models. Unlike in the world of corporations, where the number of votes is based on how much money people invest, every member-owner at GreenStar has an equal voting share, so no one's vote counts more than anyone else's. That's why a common co-op "mantra" is, "One Member! One Vote!" Voting is a benefit because it allows member-owners to directly shape the direction and vision of the co-op.

But voting is also a responsibility of being a cooperative member-owner. According to Elizabeth Archerd of The Wedge in Minneapolis, "Our co-ops are in danger of losing the distinction between consumer-owned businesses and other stores. Participation is the lifeblood of democracy. Without your willingness to participate, your stores will become pale imitations of the private chains."1

I believe what Elizabeth says is very true. Every co-op is unique because it reflects the needs and desires of its individual member-owners. But how can it do this if members don't vote?

You may not be aware of just how abysmal our turnout is in Council elections and other votes. You probably know that the United States has lower turnouts for national elections than many countries. The statistics for GreenStar, however, are even worse. Between 1960 and 2010, voter turnout for national general elections ranged from 36 to 63 percent, with presidential election years yielding a low of 49 percent.2 At GreenStar, we've been lucky to get 5 percent. A year ago, we didn't even get quorum — that's less than 2.5 percent — for important and, in certain cases, necessary changes to our bylaws. This meant not only that the vote didn't count, but also that the time and money invested in preparing for the vote was all for naught. A quorum of less than 2.5 percent at GreenStar, with a membership of over 8,000, means that we require a mere 200 member-owners to vote to consider the results valid.

As Membership Manager, my greatest concern is that our voting results with such poor representation won't truly reflect the majority views of our member-owners. Disconnected from the process, member-owners may not even be aware of the representation they're getting from Council members or of the changes taking place in our Co-op's evolution through Council decisions and the membership's voting process. I fear that, over time, the policies passed and initiatives undertaken won't reflect what the membership as a whole actually desires. The Co-op will become a mere fraction of what it could truly be, unable to best meet its member-owners' needs, as it will be catering to the perspectives of the few who vote. Under these circumstances, GreenStar cannot possibly attain its true vibrant potential.

Your participation — your opinion expressed through your vote — really, truly, actually matters! So this voting period, please vote. You have the entire month of November to do so. Ballots are easily accessible at the Member Centers in both stores. And being a somewhat competitive person, I want to challenge GreenStar's membership to achieve a voting statistic unheard of in at least our recent past. How about a turnout rate of 20 percent or more? Can we do it? I think we can!

1 Cooperative Education Column for Co-op Consumer News, Nov/Dec 1996.

2 www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0781453.html


Voting has ended. The Patronage Dividend measure failed to pass. The Collegetown Crossing store measure passed.