Brattleboro Food Co-op—

Brattleboro, Vermont

Project Summary

  • A food co-op seeking a LEED-accredited building
  • By reframing the issue and undertaking the creation of a locally-sourced food production capability, an energy assessment and strategy, and deepening the understanding of the Coop as a significant community amenity that can drastically reduced its carbon footprint

Project Description and Client Aspirations

The Brattleboro Food Co-op was formed in 1975, and started off as a small buying club– one of the first of its kind. Today, the Co-op is an 11,500 square foot natural foods market that is enjoyed by the greater Brattleboro community. The Co-op is community owned and has the dual goal of community accessibility and community education with regards to local food.

The Co-op was expanding and wanted to build a new, LEED accredited building. A strong presence within town, the Co-op wanted the building to reflect its values and to be a model of energy efficiency and appropriate building.

Regenesis originally was contacted to help them achieve these standards in a proposed facility expansion. However, Regenesis brought a broader and more systemic perspective into the initial discussions, from which it became clear that:

  1. to be sustainable, the Coop needed to address a local supply of food products through the reestablishment of a healthy farm economy and ecology – if a trucker’s strike occurred they could only sustain their business and resources for three days,
  2. the Co-op needed a strategy for avoiding being displaced by a large national chain, and
  3. introducing green building technology by itself fell far short of the potential the Co-op had for both strengthening its competitive position and influencing the viability of the local economy and ecology.

The Regenerative Grocery Store

After conversation with local stakeholders and undertaking a Story of Place™, it became clear that the potential energy savings within the building paled in comparison to those of shortening the transportation distance of the food sold (most of the food traveled an average of 1,500 miles). By encouraging and promoting local agriculture through its market, the Co-op could save far more energy as well as make them non-displaceable in the market.

A regenerative design approach to a cooperative grocery store demonstrates the value of bringing the food cycle back home to create a truly local and long-term sustainable approach to nutrition and local economy. The Board and managers of the Co-op have continued to extend the thinking Regenesis helped them develop, using it as the basis for their 100-year plan.

The Co-op now offers many community-outreach programs in addition to its focus on providing local, healthy food. Demonstration sessions, yoga classes, and food information sessions are weekly events in Brattleboro, all hosted by the Co-op or their affiliates. The Co-op is truly a pillar in the community.