Community Food Co-Op
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Board Candidate: Laura Weiss

What skills and qualities uniquely qualify you for the Board of Directors, and why do you want to run for the Board?

I am excited to now call Bellingham my home after 20 years in Portland. My husband and I are enjoying getting to know this community and looking forward to contributing to maintaining the high quality of life that people here enjoy. One of our key criteria for choosing where we were going to live was whether the town had a good co-op!

I have over 30 years of professional experience in the field of environmental health and sustainability. I have worked with many groups, doing multi-stakeholder facilitation and collaboration, and have well-developed project management and presentation skills. With an MBA in Sustainable Business and having launched a small business in Portland, I have a good understanding of the fundamentals of business and I am looking forward to using these skills to help the Co-op succeed and grow.

Choose one of the six Co-op strategic plan goals and briefly explain why it interests you and what you could contribute to its development. 

I have spent most of my career working on environmental policy and advocacy, so the area of Stewardship and Advocacy interests me the most. I think the Co-op should continue to play a leadership role in promoting the growth of sustainable agriculture, energy efficiency, and resource conservation.

What do you believe are the Co-op’s greatest strengths?

The Co-op plays a critical role in the community as a resource for healthy food, and as a way for Whatcom County residents to ensure their food dollars stay in the community. As we see more consolidation in the food industry (e.g., Amazon buying Whole Foods), the Co-op plays an increasingly important role in providing local, healthy food while supporting the local economy as much as possible.

Describe your experience reading and understanding financial statements.

In 2011, I started a mission-driven business to reduce waste from single use takeout containers. As a small business owner, I managed my own books, did all the accounting, and was able to gain an in-depth understanding of profit and loss statements and balance sheets through that process. In addition, I earned an MBA in Sustainable Business from Presidio (formerly the Bainbridge Graduate Institute) in 2006, which gave me a sound basis for reading and understanding financial statements .

Describe your experience, skills, or knowledge working with any or all of the following: cooperatives, policy governance, nonprofit or for-profit boards, or groups that use active member participation to achieve their goals.

I have over 30 years of professional nonprofit, government, and private sector experience in the field of environmental sustainability including waste management, renewable resources, water quality, toxics, and environmental health. I have served on several Boards, including a bicycle advocacy group in Washington, D.C., a chapter of the Sierra Club, and a sustainable business advocacy organization in Portland, Oregon .

Describe your connections with the community, including volunteer work if applicable.

I have lived in Bellingham less than a year, so I am still building my connections to the community. Nonetheless, I currently serve as the Chair of the Board of Animals as Natural Therapy, a local nonprofit providing support to at-risk kids and veterans through connections with horses and other animals. I have also met many wonderful people attending Green Drinks and volunteering for RE Sources for Sustainable Communities and Sustainable Connections. 

Describe your business experience.

In 2011, I created and founded a small, mission-driven business called GO Box: the first reusable takeout container service. I managed all aspects of the business including marketing, sales, finances, logistics, personnel management, and strategy. I also developed a licensing program to allow for GO Box to expand beyond Portland. Before moving to Bellingham, I managed the successful sale of the company .

I also spent a year working for a large food service company, serving as their first Regional Sustainability Manager for their higher education line of business. In this position, I established the company’s first regional sustainability program, assessed baseline sustainability status, educated frontline managers as to best practices, developed site-specific action plans, and measured success over time.

Describe your background with and commitment to organic and natural foods.

I have been buying and eating organic and natural foods for over 30 years. I stopped eating red meat in 1984 after I learned about the clearing of rainforests in South America to make grazing land for cattle. Today, 35 years later, we know even more how much of a footprint our food choices have on the natural environment, with one major example being the clearing of jungles in Indonesia for the growth of palm plantations. As a result, I have been avoiding all products with palm oil for at least a decade.

What committee/s are you most interested in serving on and what skills and experience would you bring?

I am most interested in the Member Affairs Committee. I was drawn to this place by the beautiful environment of Whatcom County and the bounty of its forests and farmland. As the impacts of climate change worsen, it's critical that we plan for how to adapt to a world that will become less food secure in the coming decades, while also preserving the natural environment that we and the other creatures here rely on.

  
 

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