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SCOOP offers a way for students to shop sustainably

Nouse talks to Megan Thornberry about SCOOP and how to be more sustainable when shopping

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Image Credit: Rebecca Crowther

In the basement of Wentworth’s sociology building lies the University of York’s Student-run co-operative, Scoop. Past the Vedge Café and down the long descending hall-way, the smell of organic spices and fresh veg means you have arrived at the University’s most sustainable (and cheapest) food shop. With the possibility of buying in bulk and avoiding plastic-wrapped goods altogether, Scoop avoids many problems when shopping at large supermarkets.

Megan Thornberry, the current Chairperson of Scoop, spoke a little more about what Scoop does and how shopping more sustainably is important for our student budgets but also for the planet.

“Scoop is a student-run cooperative, based around the core cooperative values of people equally owning and controlling the means of the business. We are entirely voluntary run and non-profit. This means we can often sell food for a lot cheaper compared to supermarkets which hitch up prices by quite a considerable amount. People can come along and bring their own jars and containers and fill them up with dry goods. We also have snacks, as well as herbs, spices, pasta, and grains. We also have the veg box scheme with The Organic Pantry, a farm based locally in Tadcaster. The boxes are almost entirely plastic-free, so you can do almost all your shop-ping at Scoop with no plastic.”

Scoops solves a lot of the environmental and ethical problems when shopping at large supermarkets. Customers can do an entire zero-waste shop by bringing their own containers or using the donated ones at hand. Additionally, most of their products are locally sourced, fair trade, organic, and sold at wholesale prices.

“Scoop started about 11 years ago and was designed to tackle the problem of huge corporations like Tesco who were not ethically treating their workers, damaging communities and producing a lot of waste. The idea was that Scoop would buy food in bulk from a cooperative company and then order it to their house on Hull Road. They would then sell the food at the bought price for students to take home in their own containers. They wanted to bring power back to students and make it more affordable to shop.”

Food sustainability is very important in the current climate. Nouse asked Megan why Scoop is useful in solving the problem of food sustainability. “Food is something that we all have to buy and buy regularly, and as consumers, this gives us a huge amount  of spending power. Scoop aims to make it affordable for York students to use that power for good. We hope to empower York students by offering an alternative to major chains who are often not treating their workers properly, exploiting farmers and importing food from miles away."

The food consumers buy is responsible for around a third of our global carbon footprint. This isn’t to mention the vast amount of waste from packaging that is produced as a result. As consumers buy more food from large supermarket chains, demand stays high, and food keeps getting processed unethically. Scoop is trying to change this by encouraging people to buy locally sourced food and ditch our addiction to plastic.

Nouse asked Megan what the impact of environmental awareness will have on how we buy food.“ Operations like Scoop are definitely the way forward. We live in a world where the wealth gap in the world is getting bigger and bigger. I am not suggesting that people buy from completely volunteer-run markets, as it’s not always possible. But the idea of a cooperative where it’s about saying ‘why pay big companies for something we can do ourselves?’ is definitely a step in the right direction and gives a lot more power to the consumer."

“I think it’s increasingly important that we try to buy local or organic and cut down on plastic. My bin is very small because I buy from Scoop, and anything that is plastic, I bring back to Scoop and refill. This means everything I have gets reused multiple times. If you start doing this as a student when you’re first learning to shop and cook for yourself, it’s a really good way of forming those habits. I have become a lot more creative in how I shop and cook. Of course, not everyone is going to be able to do this and cook from scratch everyday as occasionally you want a frozen pizza! But it’s good for people to have the option to buy something that is easily affordable and ethical."

"The big problem with our current food system is that it gives a few major chains massive amounts of power over what we buy, how it’s packaged, and how much we think it should cost. In Scoop, it is the customers ourselves who make these decisions, and we do so based upon a consensus of our values and needs. There is a lot of discourse on climate change with much blame being put on the individual. We don’t want to perpetuate this guilt, but when we withhold our money from those companies, we force them to fight for our custom more, and that is powerful.”

As well as environmental sustainability, Scoop is also about promoting healthier eating habits. Megan says “The classic student diet of pot noodles is lovely sometimes, but it shouldn’t be the only affordable way for us to eat. Many students don’t have a lot of money to spend on food or have to choose between good food and socialising. At Scoop, we have food that in the super-market sells for £1 but that we sell for13p. This suddenly makes cooking a vegetable curry in the evening much more affordable."

"We want to create those home-cooking healthy habits that encourage people to experiment in the kitchen more because it is healthier and an important skill to have. It’s exploitative that supermarkets hugely hike up the prices of foods you need for basic home cooking, like vegetables and seasonings, and make their most processed and unhealthy foods the cheapest option. We want to provide a healthy and cheap alternative to this. ”

Megan encourages students to get involved by shopping with Scoop. “We are open every Wednesday and Friday from 10am to 6pm. You don’t have to be a member to shop but if you are a member, you get everything at wholesale price. It is 10 percent extra for non-members and that is just a way of covering your membership rights."

A University of York spokesman stated: “We promote Scoop on our webpages- with a section on sustainable shopping.” “The Green Impact Staff programme also has actions to encourage sustainable procurement and recycling

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