When Choosing Organic Grocers, Trust MOM

Reader Contribution by Kurt Jacobson

When I found out MOM’s Organic Market was opening in White Marsh, just 7 minutes from my home, I was thrilled. During the last 7 years, I have seen them grow from three stores to seventeen — quite a feat in the competitive grocery store world. Scott Nash started MOM’s in his mother’s garage at age 22 in 1987, before opening the first store in Rockville, Maryland. He has been making waves in the organic grocery world ever since.

As a professionally trained chef, grocery stores have been more than a passing interest to me for over 35 years. Wild Oats in Boulder, Colorado, was the first environmentally focused grocery store I found in the 1980s. They offered sustainably raised chicken, pork, and beef, as well as plenty of organic veggies and fruits. When Wild Oats was bought by Whole Foods, it seemed like a good move. Unfortunately, Whole Foods went on to become more like the big-box conventional grocers it tried to set itself apart from previously. Nowadays, hardly half of their fruits and veggies are organic on any given day.

Why MOM Organic Market is Different

What sets MOM’s apart are several things. First is the fact they only sell organic produce. Big deal, you say? The big deal is they source the best organic produce and the most variety of any store I have seen in my worldly travels. Items like sunchokes, brussel sprouts, shallots, and other hard-to-find organic veggies are stocked often. They occasionally sell local organic apples, even if they have spots on them.

It’s rare to see a grocer explain to their faithful customers that sometimes by virtue of not spraying apple crops, there will be spots — that it is perfectly natural and not harmful to eat such fruits. After all, if you are cooking the apples in pie, applesauce, or cobblers who cares if there are some spots on them?

The best organic produce selection anywhere

Packaging Reductions, Energy Efficiency, and Bulk Foods

Another aspect setting MOM’s apart is their commitment to the environment and aggressive recycling service. At the front of their stores customers can bring in the usual plastic bags and such, but MOM’s also takes in shoes, eye glasses, wine corks and more. MOM has started accepting previously non-recycle packaging like: snack bags, squeeze pouches, energy bar wrappers and drink pouches. These will then be turned into park benches, backpacks and other new products. MOM’s has an annual drive for gathering recycled denim, and electronics to top off their exceptional commitment to recycling.

The commitment to the environment is shown across several areas of operations. MOM’s stores utilize LED ultra-low-watt lighting in their stores. Motion sensors with dimming controls help reduce electric consumption. Skylights are used where allowable and they power down all unnecessary light and equipment when not in use. MOM’s has purchased all 1.5 megawatts from a solar farm in Kingsville, Maryland, for the next 20 years to cut down on conventional electricity use. This purchase cuts 25% of the total power needs of their stores.

Plastic bags were discontinued in 2005 and MOM’s banned bottled water from their stores in 2010. Many Americans don’t realize less than 20% of recyclable plastics make it to recycling centers! According to Wikipedia, in 2008 some 33.6 million tons of plastic saw only 6.5% of that get recycled. In an article by Renee Cho from January, 2012 Renee points out 6.5% is recycled and another 7.7% is burned. It’s clearly time to ditch the bottled water habit, and MOM’s is here to help. I asked Scott Nash why the big commitment to snub bottled water and recycle.  He said, “It’s our way of not supporting plastic industries. Our purpose is to protect the environment.”

MOM’s has an extensive liquid bulk section including oil, vinegar, honey, household cleaners, detergents, and hand soaps. Customers can bring their own containers, or use the ones at MOM’s to cut down on plastic use. Just think how many plastic bottles wouldn’t be needed if we all filled our own containers with the above liquids? That would be great for the planet. I hope MOM’s and similar stores keep expanding throughout North America. I asked Scott Nash what’s the future of MOM’s and similar green-minded grocery stores and he said “Some will fail like Mrs. Green’s and maybe Natural Grocers, but MOM’s model is alive and well.”

How cool is this liquid soap refill station!

Even If you don’t have a MOM’s near you, consider asking your favorite store to implement the processes that sets MOM’s apart from the crowd. We vote with our dollars and can make a difference for the environment and our own health by choosing our grocery stores wisely.

Kurt Jacobsohas been a chef for 40 years and, after being schooled in the U.S. Coast Guard, he trained in many restaurants under both kind and maniac chefs. Kurt is starting his fourth year of container and raised-bed organic gardening and is volunteering at Wilbur’s Farm in Kingsville, Maryland, to learn real organic gardening. For this and other recipes using garden greens, and more fresh veggies check out his food blog. For tasty travel ideas check out Kurt’s travel blog, TasteofTravel2.com. Read all of Kurt’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

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