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What's a Gas?
G.A.S. is an acronym for the Italian expression "Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale" (solidarity based purchasing groups). Usually, a purchasing group is set up by a number of consumers who cooperate in order to buy food and other commonly used goods directly from the producers or from big retailers at a discounted rate.

What's the meaning of the word "Solidale" (Solidarity based)
When a purchasing group doesn't search for just for the cheapest price, but instead puts people and environment before profit, the group becomes a solidarity based purchasing group. A solidarity based purchasing group chooses the products and producers on the basis of respect for the environment and the solidarity between the members of the group, the traders, and the producers. Specifically, these guidelines lead to the choice of local products (in order to minimize the environmental impact of the transport), fair-trade goods (in order to respect disadvantaged producers by promoting their human rights, in particular women's, children's and indigenous people's) and reusable or eco-compatible goods (to promote a sustainable lifestyle).

Why are new groups born?
Every single Gas has its specific motivation, but usually all groups draw their roots from a critical approach to today's global economic model and lifestyle of consumerism; individuals that feel the unfairness in this model and are searching for a practical alternative can find reciprocal aid and advice by joining solidarity based purchasing groups.

How does a new group grow?
Usually when some friends develop a tendency toward a less consumerist way of life, the idea of undertaking shared purchases initiatives is quite natural. When the idea becomes more concrete, a fair amount of effort is needed for the search of some local producer that meets the solidarity criteria; the next step is the establishment of an internal structure in the group in order to collect the orders and redistribute the products, and the solidarity based purchasing group is already born!

What's the Gas network concept?
As stated before, a very demanding task in a Gas is the continuous search for producers and products that satisfy the most stringent ethical requirements, and it is now possible to share this kind of information between different groups by joining them in a network; nowadays the Italian network counts about 1000 solidarity based purchasing groups registered, and many others who are not registered.

Further information
More information about the story of the Italian Gas can be found in the paper by Laura Colombo about "The Gas as Laboratories of Civil Economy", see link here below.