Social Reinforcement of Environmentally Conscious Consumer Behavior at a Grocery Store Cooperative

  •  Shannon Moncure    
  •  Mark Burbach    


Cooperative, natural grocery stores set themselves apart in many ways from the corporate, for-profit stores that are often seen as more mainstream in the United States. Created through local grassroots efforts, such cooperatives tend to support environmental efforts like local, sustainable and organic agriculture, and to offer environmentally friendly foods that are low on the food chain and/or contain little embodied energy. A feeling of belonging can be a powerful motivator to shop at the co-op, and even to join the organization. Such in-group experiences serve both to build and maintain relationships and to differentiate the cooperative from other grocery outlets, reinforcing the social preferences toward environmental conscious consumer behavior in such retail outlets. This qualitative study explores one local cooperative grocery store through a symbolic interactionism lens, asking whether and how community is built through shoppers’ verbal interactions with co-op staff. Ethnographic methods are used to highlight and explore shoppers’ interpretation of the “co-op” experience, and how that interpretation is communicated through social interaction. Themes found in the data indicate that both customers and staff see the community cooperative as not only a place to shopbut also as a place to interact with likeminded people, about topics and issues integral to their sense of identity, especially in the area of environmentally conscious consumer behavior.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1925-4725
  • ISSN(Online): 1925-4733
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: semiannual

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