It is described by its producers as “A Catalog that Pictures a World of Your Dreams.” The promotion continues: “Imagine a world where people come together across lines of class, race, and gender. Health food, affordable housing and economic justice exists for everyone; work is more than a job; childcare is close by; and cooperation prevails.”
Who writes these visionary words? A group of young people who founded CO-OP America five years ago in Washington, D.C., and are distributing a quarterly mail order catalog featuring small businesses, cooperatives, other non-profit groups and artists collectives who share common concerns for peace, justice, and the environment. CO-OP America itself is organized as a non-profit membership organization dedicated to these same principles.
Leaf ing through the catalogue, one finds Deva, a small cottage industry in Burkittsville, Maryland that designs and makes natural fiber clothing and provides employment for 77 local people. There is the Cherry Hill Cooperative Cannery of Vermont that makes high quality canned goods from raspberry butter to pickled beets. This worker collective provides farmers with a market for their crops and home gardeners with a location to can and preserve their homegrown foods safely and economically.
Then there is Pueblo to People, a non-profit group busily finding markets in the U.S. for clothing, furniture and crafts produced by cooperatives in Honduras, Nicaragua and displaced Guatemalan and El Salvadoran refugees.
In the arts section, there is Redwood Records, a women-owned and managed musical recording company with songs of social content and progressive values.
The colorful sixty page catalog offers magazines, books, children’s items, gardening supplies and gift items.
CO-OP America also provides a health insurance plan that has been given very high grades by the National Insurance Consumer Organization. Working with the plan’s administrator, Consumers United Insurance Co., CO-OP America’s health insurance gives subscribers a very broad right to choose health care practitioners, unisex rates, benefits of group coverage for individuals, reproductive health care and socially responsible investment of your premium dollars.
What all these offerings are pointing toward is a sub-economy where buyers help socially conscious producers and sellers while receiving good quality, environmentally sensitive products. So, for example, you can purchase organic foods, recycled paper items, natural skin care products and Third World crafts. There are even alternative travel guides.
I suppose one way to really appreciate what CO-OP America is doing is to watch a couple of hours of prime time television advertising and Saturday morning children’s television. Compare the junk and deception, that make up too many of such ads, with the wholesomeness of the CO-OP America catalog. It is more than the difference between sugar and nutrition. It is a difference of different views of life’s quality, meaning and purpose when consumers buy one way in contrast to another.
Some of these values are reflected in the encomiums that have poured into CO-OP America from its thousands of catalog users such as; “helps the conscientious person avoid products emanating from environmentally dangerous corporations.” Or, “is a means to offer products that help create a climate of peace and social justice.”
By now, one hopes you are asking how you can obtain a copy of the latest catalog. Just send a letter requesting the catalog to Denise Hamler, Catalog Director, CO-OP America, Suite 310, 2100 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20063.