By Bruno De Nicola, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – Rede Ecológica do Rio (Rio’s Eco-Network) is an alternative, organic food market where consumers can satisfy their desire for environmental preservation and save money in the process.

Organic vegetables at Rede Ecológica come directly from the producers, photo courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

In its ninth year of life, and with various locations throughout the Cidade Maravilhosa, this dynamic and articulate network represents a solid, intimate eco-reality in a world that is increasingly moving in the opposite direction towards large distribution and mass production.

Often when a group of consumers has very specific demands, based for example on political or ethical views, not being satisfied by common retail channels, they unite and create distribution chains of their own.

Fair trade associations are the obvious forms of such manifestations, well-known throughout the world as organizations with firm beliefs in an economy of justice and who work hard to build and maintain alternative fluxes of business.

Rede Ecológica do Rio is one such example. It was borne from the specific needs and the strong will of two ladies from Urca, in Rio’s Zona Sul, who in 2001 decided to begin selling organic tangerines to their neighbors.

What began as mere citrus sales has now grown into a quality grocery store.  In those last nine years, Rede Ecológica has expanded significantly, reaching different parts of the city, and evolving from something casual into a solid network of nine locations all of which cooperate to nourish a specific grocery distribution chain.

“I really like the fact that we buy our groceries directly from the producers. I prefer to know who I’m buying from, and by going straight to the source we even manage to cut a little off the price,” says Maria Eugenia Gay, manager of Rede Ecológica’s Santa Teresa store.

Gay explains that Rede Ecológica is run by a general assembly comprised of members and producers. The network buys grocery products directly from organic farmers from all over the country, thus avoiding intermediary costs.

Products arrive at a distribution center in Glória on Fridays, which are then delivered to each location’s sorting unit. Milk deliveries are made on Saturdays.

By eliminating intermediary distributors and reaching out to the organic farmers, in addition to favoring a better environment, Rede Ecológica’s members also end up reducing the impact on their wallets.

“In some cases [cost is reduced] by more than fifty percent,” affirms Gay, remarking that “the same pot of organic cabbage sauce that costs R$3 at a market in Glória is sold for eighty cents to network members.”

Each member pays a R$55 monthly fee to cover organizational and distribution costs, and receives a weekly email with an attached shopping list. Orders for fresh products like vegetables, fruit and eggs are to be placed by Thursday of each week. Dry products, such as pasta, rice or soap, may be purchased just once a month.

Network members are happy shoppers, saving money and satisfying their ecology ideals. Márcia Fregolon, Rede Ecológica member, highlights another positive aspect of the chain: “I’m pleased to be able to buy unpacked products. That way, I can avoid polluting the environment by purchasing useless supermarket packages.”

To find out more about Rede Ecológica and its Rio de Janeiro locations or to subscribe for membership, visit their website at www.redeecologicario.org.

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