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Small Steps to Big Change: Plugging Into Activism with Honest Weight's Website

By Ruth Ann Smalley

What you do may seem insignificant. But it is very important that you do it.” 

I keep a button featuring this Gandhi quote on my dresser. It helps me in moments when I doubt that what I do matters much to our tumultuous world.

Here’s how I interpret it: a sense of agency is fundamental to our mental health. We need to feel we have a leading role in our own lives—that we are active participants, not spectators or victims. When we do something, no matter how small, we are reminded that we do have power and can make choices. 

And that can energize us even more. That’s where I like to remember another quote, this time from Charles Dickens: “A very little key will open a very heavy door.” Small actions can become the key that has an outsized opening effect. When we feel helpless in the face of so many injustices or unstoppable events, we risk shutting down. Compassion fatigue and empathy exhaustion can also drop us into despair. But in my experience, choosing even one small action that feels like a positive change can provide the starting point for rising back up. 

I’m not suggesting this is a strategy for people who lack basic resources or are struggling with extreme physical or mental health conditions. Survival may be taking up every bit of energy they possess. Putting one foot in front of the other every day is a heroic action in itself. In fact, that may count as the seemingly insignificant thing Gandhi felt was so important to do—do the things that keep you alive. Anything else may be too much.

But if you are interested in exercising agency on behalf of someone or something else—the environment, our community, others in need—read on to see how Honest Weight can help. In my 30 years as a member, the Co-op has offered me countless resources and avenues for action. The website alone offers a virtual clearinghouse of information. Spending even a little bit of time there will open a very large door.

Put the Oxygen Mask On Yourself First

Some of the simplest choices—the ones that save you time and money—can free up more of your resources for other forms of activism. And you amplify your positive effects by shopping at Honest Weight, because the store gives back in so many ways. Based on what you purchase here, 5% of store profits are donated to community initiatives.

Look in the dropdown menu under Shopping Honest Weight, to find Current Sales. Here you can access the “Great Deals” flier, which is updated weekly with announcements of our sales across all departments – produce, meat, seafood, cheese, kitchen, grocery, and wellness! If you check it early, it can be the best shopping crystal ball ever.

It can help you plan your shopping trip in advance, so you can take advantage of sales that generally range from $2-$5 off. A recent sale in Bulk even offered a savings of $11 per pound on pine nuts! Subscribing to the Co-op Newsletter will make sure this information lands conveniently in your email inbox. Great coupons are often included, such as the recent $15 off for Independence Day.

Dig a little deeper into this menu item and you’ll find out how to get a dollar-to-dollar match (up to $20 a day) on fresh produce with Double Up Food Bucks if you are a SNAP shopper. Plus, information under Stay Local explains how with every Co-op shopping trip, you help money stay in the community. For example, that Independence Day coupon directed $1 from every purchase to Hudson Valley Planned Parenthood. And all profits from the recent Pride Cupcake sale went to the Albany Damian Center. 

Knowledge is Power

We’re still just hanging out with items under the Shopping Honest Weight heading, and whew, you’ll find such an information trove to help you take action! This includes actions the store is already helping you take, such as screening out the products from The Banned List. This group of non-beneficial ingredients is barred from store shelves. You can find out more about them, and access Honest Weight’s Food and Product Manual here. You may discover something that fires you up and helps you make positive changes to your daily life and routine!

You can also find a report about the Enviro Tokens program that wrapped up recently. Incentivizing shoppers to bring their own bags, it saved over a million paper bags and donated thousands to local organizations over a six-year period. The yearly donations list reads like a who’s who of hardworking nonprofits in our area, and provides links to their websites. Dive in, and you may find an organization you’d like to support further.

Seeing the many ways folks are out there making good things happen can really boost your spirits! Follow the link on this page to the new Be the Change program, introduced after Enviro Tokens retired. When you take the opportunity to round up at the register, you support a list of great, local nonprofits. The results have already been amazing!

You are Here

That last click lands you in the menu options under About, for loads more resources. You can find out about all things cooperative-related. There’s also a list of Black-owned businesses and organizations, educational resources related to racial justice, and information about the Co-op’s Anti-Racism Committee under the Black Lives Matter tab. 

Speaking of committees, that’s another way to become active! Jump on over to the Ownership column for even more information—especially a list of Committees of the Board. From nutrition to the environment, governance, and more, there are many great options for members to join in and make a difference.

It's been a whirlwind tour and there’s still more on the site! I hope you’ll explore, and find inspiration for whatever action feels doable and brings you joy.

I wrote my children’s book, Sheila Says We’re Weird, to illustrate how children can take action at home. From gardening and line-drying laundry, to mending clothes, using water bottles, and biking instead of driving, it's mostly simple stuff that can even be fun.

And it isn’t as though everyone has to do all of these things to make a difference. One grown-up reader told me they felt guilty about “not doing any of those things in the book.” But then it came out that they had purchased a hybrid car. My response: “Ok, that’s the action that you’re taking. Not all of us can do that. No guilt trips!” 

I’ll leave you with that encouragement. No guilt trips.I know you’ll find something you CAN do. And it is most important that you do it.

Ruth Ann Smalley, PhD, is our Content Editor. An educator and writer with a 4-digit Co-op member number from the early 90s, Ruth Ann offers wellness, writing, and creativity coaching through her practice at or

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