Co+op Forest 2014

The holiday season can be a hectic time of year at the co-op and at home. It’s the perfect time to take a short mental vacation to the remote, tropical Peruvian rainforest, and learn about the great work co-ops are doing to mitigate climate change. Lean back and relax while you are transported to Co+op Forest, home of the National Cooperative Grocers Association’s (NCGA) carbon offset program, to find out what we’ve accomplished in 2014.

Welcome to the San Martin Biocorridor
Nestled in the lush mountainous landscape of northwestern Peru is an awe-inspiring region called the San Martin Biocorridor. Thought to be one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, this incredible area is home to over 160 mammal species, including South American tapirs, giant anteaters, nine-banded armadillos, and red-faced spider monkeys. More than 300 bird species also call this home, including scarlet macaws, white-throated toucans, and speckled chachalacas. Novel butterfly, amphibian, reptile, and plant species number well into the hundreds as well.
This vital region is currently managed by ACOPAGRO, a cooperative of cacao farmers who believe that preserving the forests around their farms contributes to cleaner water for their community and higher quality cacao. Unfortunately, in a modern twist that has become all too familiar, this old-growth rainforest has been found to contain massive underground petroleum deposits–as such, it is at imminent risk for development. This is one reason why our co-ops and ACOPAGRO have decided to work together to protect it.

Co+op Forest, Phase 2
In these pages a year ago, we introduced you to NCGA’s carbon offset program, Co+op Forest. In 2013, we successfully demonstrated that when co-ops join forces, we can do amazing things. In partnership with French environmental collective, Pur Projet, we planted more than 1,000 native trees in Alto Huayabamba, a deforested region in northern Peru. In 2014, we continued to support the original project by planting an additional 1,000 native trees while expanding Co+op Forest to include the rich natural wonder that is the San Martin Biocorridor.
While Alto Huayabamba is a direct reforestation project, the San Martin Biocorridor is a conservation effort. Both approaches have an important role to play when it comes to slowing climate change.

The climate connection
Reforestation of areas such as the Alto Huayabamba is important because trees play a pivotal part in the capturing of greenhouse gases, the kind that lead to global warming. As trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the air and store some of the carbon in their trunks. This effect is known as a “carbon sink.” By acting as carbon sinks, forests slow the rate at which carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere. Reforestation projects that plant native trees in tropical areas are especially beneficial because tropical trees reach maturity quickly, allowing them to get to work faster.
On the other hand, conservation projects like the one begun in the San Martin Biocorridor protect old-growth trees from being clear-cut for timber or petroleum drilling in the first place. Protecting these trees is especially critical because their massive trunks are made up billions of tiny carbon atoms; every carbon atom that remains locked up in a tree is one less carbon atom that will otherwise contribute to global warming.

Co+op Forest, growing strong
We are pleased to use our collective strength to benefit Co+op Forest projects that work to mitigate climate change and protect the biodiversity that makes our planet so awe inspiring. In addition to NCGA offsetting air travel and utilities, two NCGA co-ops, Los Alamos Market (Los Alamos, N. M.) and The Common Market (Frederick, Md.) have contributed to Co+op Forest directly in 2014. All NCGA co-ops are welcome to contact Allie Mentzer ([email protected]) for more information about how your co-op can join the effort directly as well.n

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