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Vendors Are Partners: Alaffia this month’s Fair Trade Partner

Thanks to Robin Michael, Alaffia Western Regional Sales Manager, for answering a few questions about Alaffia.

What is your origin story? Who started the business and why?

Alaffia is a fair trade (certified by IMO) hair, face, and body care organization that began in 2003 by founders Olowo-n’djo Tchala and Prairie Rose Hyde. The two met when during Rose’s service in the Peace Corps, she was stationed in Olowo-n’djo’s village of Kabole.  Headquartered in Olympia, Washington, Alaffia’s clean, safe, and efficacious products incorporate indigenous, nutrient-rich ingredients handcrafted at our six women’s cooperatives in Togo and Ghana. A percentage of each product sale contributes to our Empowerment Projects in West Africa, addressing vital areas for the self-empowerment of the people of West Africa—maternal care, education, reforestation, and eyeglasses.

Do you have a special tagline or slogan?

Beauty – Equality - Empowerment

What are your most popular products and why?

  • Babies and Up Lemon Lavender Bubble Bath- safe, clean bubbles without irritation!!
  • Purely Coconut Hand & Body Lotion- made with hand crafted fair trade coconut oil, for a non-greasy moisturizing formula.
  • Charcoal Based Underarm Deodorants- best-selling formulas that wear well with lasting protection!

What makes Alaffia products unique? Why should someone buy them?

Fair trade AND efficacious. We combine the ancient wisdom of plant based oils with science to create products that are accessible, safe and effective.

Are your products fair trade, organic, co-op made, non-GMO?

We are a Fair for Life fair trade certified body care company- one of only two (Dr. Bronner’s is the other)!

How many staff members do you have?

U.S.- 175
Togo- 700 year-round, and 14,000 empowered

What would an employee say is the best part about working at Alaffia?

  • “The work is very diversified, and I get to try my hand at many things.  Furthermore, the work feels meaningful, and I think it attracts such great coworkers- talented, smart, and all of whom want to help the business succeed.” -Matthew Barrett, Marketing Supervisor
  • “Truly, it’s the people I work with.” -Jen Luck, Sales Planner (formerly of First Alternative Co-op)
  • “The fact that we empower and employ people across the globe, here and in Africa, to make the world a better place.  It’s all about making the world a better place…through kindness, empowerment, empathy, listening, sustainable practices. The kids who are able to stay in school because they received a bicycle through Alaffia’s “Bikes for School” program- you never know which one  is going to change the world or help inspire someone else who will change the world.”  -Dane Halter, Alaffia Broker

Anything else we should know?

Our empowerment projects have affected more than 50,000 lives for the better!  Follow link for more details: alaffia.com/empowerment/

SOCIAL NETWORK

  • FaceBook @Alaffia
  • Number of Followers: 18,233
  • Twitter @AlaffiaSkinCare
  • Number of Followers: 4657
  • Instagram @alaffia
  • Number of Followers: 17,200

More History, Fair Trade Ingredient Information, Baskets and Empowerment Projects

Over the years, there have been moments that shaped the natural products industry. One such moment occurred when Olowo-n’djo Tchala met Prairie Rose Hyde. No one could have imagined a young woman from rural Washington and a young man born and raised in rural Togo, West Africa with a sixth grade education would go on to build one of the most successful fair trade body care organizations in the natural products industry.

Olowo-n’djo Tchala was born and raised in the village of Kaboli, Togo where he shared a single 8’x10’ room with his mother and seven siblings. After failing to afford school tuition, Olowo-n’djo dropped out of school in the sixth grade. In the years after, he worked alongside his mother on her farm. In 1996, Olowo-n’djo met and fell in love with Peace Corps Volunteer, Prairie Rose Hyde, while she worked in Kaboli. After her service ended, the couple moved to the United States with a shared goal: finding a way to alleviate poverty in West Africa.

Rose entered a graduate program at the University of California, Davis studying International Agricultural Development and Ethnobotany, the scientific study of the relationships that exist between people and plants. Olowo-n’djo studied English and earned a degree in Organizational Theory. Determined to make a difference in his home country, Olowo-n’djo applied for a $50,000 business loan and, not familiar with the American banking system, did not understand why the bank could not fulfill his request when he had no personal financial assets. Eventually, Rose’s brother offered his house as collateral and the couple obtained the loan, traveled to Togo, and formed what we know today as Alaffia.

Fair trade is a movement of individuals and organizations working to ensure producers in economically disadvantaged countries receive a greater percentage of the price paid by consumers. While there are several definitions of fair trade, they all include:

  • Fair Trade Price: base price for raw ingredients or goods is adjusted higher than open market price.
  • Price Premium: a percentage above the base fair trade price is paid into a separate account for development projects in producer communities.
  • Working Conditions: fair trade operators must adhere to basic human & labor rights, including the right to organize, no child labor, access to health care, and so on.
  • Environmental Stewardship: fair trade organizations must minimize environmental impact.

To Alaffia, fair trade means paying a fair price or wage in the local context, providing equal employment opportunities, engaging in environmental sustainable practices, providing healthy and safe working conditions, being open to public accountability, and reducing the number of middlemen between producers & consumers. We believe fair trade should be environmentally, economically, and culturally sustainable and give local communities the opportunity to self-empower.

Fair Trade Unrefined Ingredients:

Shea Butter

Shea butter is the oil from the nuts of wild Shea trees scattered throughout the wooded savanna of West and Central Africa. Shea butter has been used for centuries in Africa. It’s protective and emollient properties are most valued for skin care. In recent clinical trials, shea butter was found to help to protect skin against climate and UV aggressions, reduce appearance of wrinkles, soothe irritated and chapped skin, and moisturize the epidermis.

Handcrafted, unrefined shea butter contains the maximum amount of bioactive phytochemicals. Most shea butter available to the general public outside West Africa is white and odorless: in other words, it has been refined to remove the natural scent and color of natural shea butter. In the process, the majority of the antioxidant agents are also removed. The yellow tint of unrefined shea butter is due to the Vitamin E content. Remove this color, and the beneficial vitamins have also been removed. Refined shea butter is often hard and grainy, not smooth and creamy like pure, unrefined shea butter.

Unrefined Coconut Oil

Virgin coconut oil is traditionally extracted oil from fresh fruit of the coconut palm, Cocos nucifera. Coconuts have been cultivated in coastal West Africa and been part of the diet and skin care for centuries. Virgin coconut oil is an important food oil, and is applied to skin and hair directly to protect from sun and wind damage.

Virgin coconut oil is high in natural antioxidants and protects skin from damaging free-radicals. It also helps keep skin looking firm, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Repeated use of virgin coconut oil helps keep skin smoother and more evenly textured by removing the outer layer of dead skin cells. We extract our virgin coconut oil by hand using traditional fermentation methods in Togo, West Africa from fresh coconuts grown organically on small farms. We use our virgin coconut oil in its natural, unrefined state for maximum effectiveness.

Refined coconut oil has been stripped of natural antioxidants and is highly prone to free-radical generation. Free radicals damage skin cells and cause skin aging and cancer. The antioxidants in unrefined coconut oil not only prevent free-radicals from forming in the oil, but also help protect against free-radicals that the skin is exposed to.

Baskets

The Alaffia basket weaving program began in 2004 and the first Alaffia Basket Weaving Cooperative was established in Tchevié, southern Togo in 2006. In 2008, Alaffia baskets were Certified Fair Trade by GiFFT and the Alaffia Internal Control System with full quality parameters was established. In November 2014, our Togo basket weaving program underwent a full and rigorous inspection by the Institute for Marketecology (IMO) Fair for Life Social & Fair Trade Certification Program. IMO is one of the first and most renowned international bodies for inspection, certification and quality assurance of sustainable products. Our Togo baskets are now Certified Fair Trade by IMO. Furthermore, our baskets, as well as shea butter, other oils and soaps received IMO's highest possible Fair for Life performance ranking (5). To our knowledge, our West African Togo baskets will be the first and only to be Certified Fair Trade. The certification covers the baskets woven in our Sokodé, Togo center.

Empowerment Projects

Alaffia’s success is not simply measured by profit. Our success is measured by empowerment. Empowerment Projects are Alaffia’s mission in action, funded by the sales of Alaffia products. Alaffia invests in our communities because it is our moral responsibility and to ensure African resources empower African communities. The goal is to alleviate poverty and encourage gender equality. Our Empowerment Projects include several Education-Based Projects, Maternal Health, FGM Eradication (Female Genital Mutilation), Eyeglasses and Reforestation. All of Alaffia’s projects empower Togolese communities to provide their skills and knowledge to the rest of the world and rise out of poverty. Click for more information.

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Consider Running for the 2019 Board of Directors

You shop at Wheatsville. You support Wheatsville’s mission to create a self-reliant, self-empowering community of people that will grow and promote a transformation of society toward cooperation, justice, and non-exploitation. So why not consider a role that allows you to help govern your co-op, too? Are you a co-op member with a computer, a little spare time, and a desire to oversee the business and policy of your co-op? If so, run for a place on the Board of Directors!

In the upcoming months, the Nominations Committee will hold orientation sessions for Co-op members interested in learning more about serving on the Board. These sessions are designed to let you know more about what the Board does, the Policy Governance model it follows, and to determine whether the Board’s work is something that you are really interested in doing. The Nominations Committee will publish the orientation dates on the Board of Directors page of our website. In the meantime, take a look at the website under Membership/ Board of Directors to read the current process for a co-op election and the qualifications you need to be a director.

Please come to a Board meeting or two to watch the current directors in action or join on one of our committees and work directly with the Board on important issues such as financial auditing. Board meeting information is posted on the Board’s web page, too, in the Announcements box on the right side of the page. The Board alternates the meeting location between the two store locations each month, so be sure to check which location is hosting the meeting you are interested in attending.

Current Nominations Committee members include Rose Marie Klee, Chair, Lisa Mitchell, and Lyz Nagan. Co-op members with questions about Board elections are welcome to contact us at nominations@wheatsville.coop.

Deciding to run? Click here to learn the process and fill out an application.

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$5 DINNER!

EVERY THURSDAY, our deli will be serving up a delicious hot dinner for just $5 EACH at BOTH STORES from 5 – 8pm.

CLICK HERE FOR UPCOMING WEEKLY MENU

To get in on this great deal all you have to do is bring your appetite!

Our Deli Clerks will serve you up a healthy portion of our scratch-made hot weekly entrée then you can go to town on a rotating selection of fresh, deli-made sides – ALL FOR JUST ONE FLAT PRICE OF $5!

Get a fresh, healthy dinner for yourself for just $5 or feed a family of 4 for just $20! Enjoy in-store and patio seating at both stores, or take it to go!

Menu subject to change without notice. No substitutions.
$5 Dinners are a Co+op Basics item and no further discounts may be taken. Price is already as low as we can go.

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Wheatsville Joins Climate Collaborative to Help Reverse Climate Change

Wheatsville Food Co-op has been a community leader in environmental stewardship since opening in 1976. As a neighborhood grocery we’ve worked hard to divert and recapture recyclable resources from the waste stream. This Earth Day we’re proud to announce that we’ve joined the Climate Collaborative along with co-ops across the country, National Co+op Grocers, and may other natural foods brands.

The Climate Collaborative is a project of OSC2 and Sustainable Food Trade Association (SFTA) to catalyze bold climate action among natural products companies. The Climate Collaborative brings manufacturers, retailers, brokers, distributors, and suppliers together to build existing climate solutions to scale and to find innovative, new ways to help reverse climate change.

Companies in the industry have made over 400 commitments to climate action to date—to integrate carbon farming into their supply chains, switch to renewable power, reduce the climate impacts of their packaging, remove deforestation from their supply chains, engage on climate policy, and more. These commitments demonstrate that acting on climate is an urgent priority for the natural products industry and highlights the growing trend of corporate leadership on climate change.

Monthly, we recycle 10 tons of cardboard at S. Lamar and 8 tons at Guadalupe. Compostable material recycling = 14 tons / month between both stores and recycling of plastic, glass, and paper = 7 tons per month. In addition, almost 2 tons of fresh edible food is being directed to fresh food banks within our community through Save the Food Coalition. All total, we are redirecting 80,000 POUNDS of materials out of the waste stream every single month.


While recycling is a big part of overall sustainability, we are also a Green Energy Partner. Just this past month, the EPA once again named our co-op among the 2018 Top 30 Retail Partners in its Green Power Partner program which uses the money we pay for utilities to build wind farms and help Austin reach its goal of goal of 55% renewable energy use by 2025.

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Our Green Features

“The environment is where we all meet; where all have a mutual interest; it is the one  thing all of us share.” —Lady Bird Johnson

As a community owned co-op, we take our Cooperative Values & Principles very seriously. We fulfill the ideals of Principle #7, Concern for Community, in a number of different ways – one of which is being a good environmental steward. Through thoughtful, small daily actions – such as sorting our trash from recycling and compost after we eat – we can make a HUGE impact.
 
Thank you for doing your part – bringing your containers to refill, remembering your reusable bags, sorting your trash, composting, planting gardens, collecting rainwater, and for supporting your co-op!
 
Here are some things your co-op does to stay green:

  1. We recycle metal, cardboard, plastic, paper, glass, food scraps, and cooking oil
  2. Break it Down, our local recyclers, estimate that we divert 20 tons of cardboard each month between both stores. That’s the equivalent of 3 elephants!

  3. Break it Down also estimates that we divert 100 tons of recycling (cardboard, glass, and plastic) each month between both stores. That’s the same as 50 full-grown cows!

  4. Wheatsville is part of Austin Energy’s Green Choice program which uses the money we pay for utilities to build wind farms and help Austin reach its goal of 55% renewable energy use by 2025!
  5. S. Lamar has 57 SolaTubes which use highly reflective fiber optic tubes to direct sunlight into our store so that we don’t have to use as much electricity. 

  6. Ceiling lights at S. Lamar adjust intensity depending on the amount of natural sunlight coming in from our SolaTubes.
  7. We only buy energy efficient coolers, refrigeration units, and equipment.

  8. We offer bulk refills of wellness products like Dr.Bronner’s soaps, lotions and laundry detergent!

  9. We use noVOC or lowVOC building materials and paint in order to have an odor-free store. 

  10. Our waterless urinal at S. Lamar saves 1.5 gallons of water per flush! 12 flushes per day saves 6,552 gallons of water per year!

  11. Our rainwater collection tanks at Guadalupe give us enough water to irrigate all of our landscaping!

  12. Our paper bags are made with 100% recovered fiber, minimum of 85% post consumer content, and are printed with water-based inks.

  13. Lots of bike parking, showers for staff at S. Lamar, a bike to work benefit for staff members who ride 8+ hours/month. 

  14. Concrete parking lots that absorb less sunlight than asphalt and reflect less heat, light paint colors, and awnings help keep us cool through the hot summers.

  15. Email receipts, double-sided receipts, and no receipts option significantly cut down the amount of paper register tape (BPA free) we have to buy.
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Local Farmer of the Month: Buena Tierra Farm

Steve Kramer and Carey Burkett have been farming for 23 years. For 15 years they’ve been farming  100 acres of fertile, high-iron, red sandy loam near Fredonia, Texas about 107 miles west of Austin.

A jack-of-all-trades, Steve taught himself how to farm. He and Carey incorporate their Do-It-Yourself spirit and solid values into everything they do on their land. They take great pride in the quality of the produce they provide for the community and it shows.

  • In April Buena Tierra Farms will be bringing spring items such as
  • Lacinato and Green Curly Kale
  • Red and Green Leaf Lettuces
  • Zucchini and Yellow Squash
  • Bunched Basil

We are proud to share the fruits of their labor with Wheatsville shoppers. Buena Tierra Farm is our favorite example of what hard work, integrity, and honesty can do for the local food community. Wheatsville Produce Coordinator Elias Valerio appreciates that Buena Tierra will not ship unless the produce is superior quality.

Brand Manager, Raquel Dadomo, shares her favorite uses of Buena Tierra Basil:

I am a huge fan of basil in general, but the Buena Tierra Basil is really extraordinary. Fresh, local and organic, it is lovingly hand bunched and ready to make you and your favorite basil recipe extremely happy.

The classic combo of basil, tomato and fresh mozzarella is a personal favorite of mine. I love to make cute little appetizer stacks of tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella drizzled with a flavorful cold-pressed olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.

If I'm wanting something more substantial, I'll go with a grilled caprese sandwich on a fabulous Wheatsville Bakehouse Baguette. I lightly chop the basil and add some fresh garlic, olive oil and sea salt then just layer in with tomato and mozzarella slices and into the grilling pan. Both of these quick recipes are super easy, super delicious and super snazzy.

Be sure to check out the Buena Tierra Basil next time you stop by for a visit. Lift the lid on the Buena Tierra basil container and unleash an avalanche of deep rich basil aroma. It is the best. You and your stomach will be glad you did

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Happy 42nd Birthday Wheatsville!

Celebrate our 42nd birthday Fri, March 16, 12-6pm with BIRTHDAY CAKE at the top of each hour at BOTH STORES until it’s gone!


42: Life, the Universe, Wheatsville & You

by Dan Gillotte, Chief Executive Grocer

Wheatsville’s birthday is one of my favorite times of the year. I feel so lucky to have a chance each year to reflect on this special organization that I’ve been privileged to be a part of for the past 20 years.

Our birthday spurs me to recognize and thank our founders and all the great people who came before us. Those board members, managers, owners, employees and shoppers who have been with us since the beginning - or at least for a couple decades! The vision of a thriving food co-op was on the mind of our forebears in 1976 and every day, we try to live up to being the ethical, positive, community-owned business that they were trying to create together.

 These days, it seems more important than ever that co-ops exist to be a counter-balancing force to all of the selfish, negative, Wall Street driven activity that is so prevalent. Our ethical underpinnings and values allow us to embody our owners’ ideals of kindness, generosity and hospitality, caring for others, social responsibility and concern for community.

This year your co-op stood up for our common ideals of openness and a welcoming approach to all people. We worked hard to support Council Members Casar, Kitchen and Garza and Mayor Pro Tem Tovo’s efforts to require that all employees in the city of Austin had access to earned sick pay (as our staff have had for decades). We’ve also continued our commitment to pay all staff livable wages and benefits, with all staff earning $13.01 or more (after passing the 90 day intro period).

You’ll see more in this issue of the Breeze about our commitment to help reverse climate change. As an early signer to the Climate Collaborative, we have long been a leader in environmentally-friendly business practices, and this is just another way for us to show our commitment to a positive sustainable future on our planet.

Our leadership on food waste diversion was a big deal this year as many news outlets featured our work on getting food into the mouths of people who need it instead of landfills. We’re very proud of these efforts, I hope you are, too.

The future for Wheatsville is bright even as the grocery wars heat up with Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods. We’re STILL LOCAL and always will be! We look forward to creating more positive impact with your support for the next 42 years and beyond!

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Welcome the 2018 Board of Directors

This year, the Wheatsville Board seated our 2018 Directors at the January 16th meeting, and held our annual retreat on the second weekend in February. It was a great opportunity to develop as a team and do some foundational work as we embark on our journey together this year. It is exciting to lead the co-op as we turn 42 (which I am told is the secret of the universe) on March 16th, and as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Dan Gillotte, our Chief Executive Grocer, who was first hired on February 18, 1998. We are deeply grateful to THAT Board of Directors for a wise decision that has paid dividends to our organization many times over!


We welcome four new directors along with two re-elected incumbents to the 2018 Board.

Jason Bourgeois describes himself as a student services practitioner, a performance conditioning specialist, an uncle, and a learning enthusiast. He loves that co-ops support unity, are inclusive, inspire creativity, and are some of the best hubs for community engagement.

Brandon Hines is a dimensional fund advisors manager specialized in information risk and security. He has been shopping at Wheatsville for 25 years because it is about so much more than getting groceries! Brandon believes that through support of our neighbors, Wheatsville will play a significant role in shaping Austin’s growing reputation as a creative center for community, culture, and cuisine.

Don Jackson is a dyed-in-the-wool cooperator who currently serves on the Austin Cooperative Business Association Board, and formerly served on the board of the Black Star Co-op. He is a Project Coordinator at the City of Austin focused on supporting small, local business districts, and he is inspired by Wheatsville’s efforts at local sourcing, commitment to affordable groceries and to livable wages.

Brian Mikulencak is an attorney whose law practice is focused on serving organizations that effect positive social change by using alternative business forms. He values the role that Wheatsville has played in the community throughout the course of Austin’s growth, and is passionate about supporting the food-choice owner-democracy of our co-op.

Lyz Nagan is the communications director for a Minneapolis-based firm, and she grew up shopping at local food co-ops. She knows from those experiences that co-ops build community. She believes in the value of small, personal actions, and she strives to be part of building a strong neighborhood by supporting local businesses and workers, and by doing one thing each day to make the city a better place.

MeriJayd O’Connor is a cranio-sacral therapist who sees Wheatsville as a fearless innovator, supporting sustainable food production, reducing waste, and creating strong cooperative alliances with other industries as we grow into the future. She dedicates herself to improving the health and well-being of others and is part of a developing organization that provides therapy to victims of torture and trauma.

At the January board meeting, three new officers were elected for 2018: Lisa Mitchell is Treasurer, Lyz Nagan is Secretary, and Rose Marie Klee is President. We are looking forward to supporting the work of this board!

We stand on the legacy of so many great directors and boards who came before us, and so I would like to say a special word of thanks to our outgoing directors: Julie Le, who was our star, leading more than her share of committees in her two years on the board; Andi Shively, who served as Treasurer and continues to provide leadership as President of the Austin Cooperative Business Association; and Kitten Holloway, who served as Secretary along with so many years of service on the Nominations Committee.

—Rose Marie Klee, Board President

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