BrightFarms: Scaling salad, locally

image_11Paul Lightfoot, the CEO of BrightFarms, pitched his company during an American Idol-like panel called Great Green Ideas at Fortune Brainstorm Green. He didn’t win the audience vote, but I think BrightFarms is a great idea, so I decided to write about the company for Guardian Sustainable Business.

BrightFarms builds hydroponic greenhouses in cities to grow lettuces, tomatoes and herbs for supermarkets. Retail chains are intrigued: They can satisfy their consumer’ appetite for local food, and be assured of a predictable supply of healthy, fresh vegetables. While hydroponic farming isn’t new, BrightFarms has developed an innovative business model that should enable the company to finance its expansion.

The result is that BrightFarms is growing (pun intended) at a nice clip. This month, it announced plans to build a greenhouse in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Here’s how my story  begins:

Most of the organic baby greens sold in Washington DC supermarkets are not “green” at all. They’re grown in the Salinas Valley in California, which has been called the most hydrologically altered landmass on the planet. Then they are shipped in refrigerated trucks roughly 2,800 miles across America.

Paul Lightfoot thinks there’s a better way to get fresh lettuce, tomatoes and herbs into the hands of supermarket shoppers. Lightfoot is chief executive of a startup called BrightFarms, which builds and operates urban, hydroponic greenhouse farms. The company operates a greenhouse farm in Philadelphia, it’s building another on a massive rooftop in Brooklyn, and it is developing farms in St Louis, Kansas City, St Paul and Oklahoma City.

You can read the rest here.

Paul Lightfoot

Paul Lightfoot

The aptly-named Paul Lightfoot, by the way, is a marathon runner, which naturally predisposed me to like him and BrightFarms. He joins a distinguished group of “green” marathon runners including Mark Tercek of The Nature Conservancy, Paul Polman of Unilever, “Speedy” Seth Goldman of Honest Tea, Tony Hansen of Fortune Brainstorm Green, Jason Graham-Nye of gDiapers, DOE solar guru Christina Nichols, ethical sourcing expert Melissa Schweisguth, Natalie Bailey of the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group and Sheryl O’Loughlin of the Nest Collective. If I’ve forgotten anyone, by all means let me know by email or in the comments.

Running with a conscience: food and drink

Melissa Schweisguth photo credit: TIME

This is third guest post on eco-friendly running from Melissa Schweisguth. (Here’s the first, on clothing and shoes, and the second, about racing, training and tech.) I’m featuring Melissa’s post because running and the environment are two of my passions, and she’s done a beautiful job of marrying the two.

Melissa is a 36-year-old fellow sustainability professional and writer who also enjoys running. She puts me to shame, and not just because she clocked an impressive 3:11:07 in the Eugene (Oregon) Marathon this year. Melissa hasn’t thrown anything into a landfill since 2006, which earned her notice in Time magazine (due to non-consumerism and creative reuse.). She thrives on an organic, whole foods, locally-based and almost exclusively vegan diet, (as does famed ultra runner Scott Jurek). She’s been working on improving her running footprint to avoid trampling people or planet and has written three blogposts on running “au naturel” for her blog, Living Acoustically, which she’s kindly agreed to let me share here.  I don’t expect most runners to be as “green” as Melissa, but my hope is that she’ll inspire you, whether you run or not, as she has inspired me to make a change or two in your lives. When she isn’t running, Melissa works a freelance writer and consultant on sustainability issues and media relations, and as director of membership and development for the Food Trade Sustainability Leadership Association.

Here’s my last post about my efforts to maximize and improve running performance while honoring a guiding principle that defines sustainability for me: “live simply so that others may simply live.”

As noted…This is being shared for informational purposes only and not intended to be preachy or judgmental, as neither is my style. We all have different backgrounds and resource demands in our lives, and I’m the first to admit there are many things I can improve!

Food

I grew up eating home-cooked whole food, much of it homegrown organic, and eat exclusively organic whole foods sourced as locally as possible now, and fuel my runs the same way. When I trained for and ran my first race, a marathon, in 2000, so-called energy bars, gels, etc. were emerging and unknown to me. Oatmeal with nuts and raisins worked well enough for me to train for and finish that marathon in 3:39:30.

Clif bars greeted me at the finish line and I had two jobs that routed free samples my way so I started to eat them periodically before long runs and longer races (with the trusty oatmeal) and later added Clif Shots/Bloks/Moons moons for some long runs and races. After deciding to save my trash for a year and realizing the wrappers made up quite a bit of my waste, I made a tote bag from the wrappers, returned to just oatmeal and started making my own energy gels (rice syrup, honey, molasses, cacao powder, salt –provides key electrolytes: sodium, potassium, magnesium, with an initial kick and sustained energy from sweeteners with different glucose/fructose ratios). [click to continue…]

Running with a conscience: racing, training and tech

Melissa Schweisguth photo credit: TIME/Bob Pennell

This is second of three guest posts on eco-friendly running from Melissa Schweisguth. (Here’s the first, on clothing and shoes. Tomorrow she’ll write about food and drink.) I’m featuring Melissa’s post because running and the environment are two of my passions, and she’s done a beautiful job of marrying the two.

Melissa is a 36-year-old fellow sustainability professional and writer who also enjoys running. She puts me to shame, and not just because she clocked an impressive 3:11:07 in the Eugene (Oregon) Marathon this year. Melissa hasn’t thrown anything into a landfill since 2006, which earned her notice in Time magazine (due to non-consumerism and creative reuse.). She thrives on an organic, whole foods, locally-based and almost exclusively vegan diet, (as does famed ultra runner Scott Jurek). She’s been working on improving her running footprint to avoid trampling people or planet and has written three blogposts on running “au naturel” for her blog, Living Acoustically, which she’s kindly agreed to let me share here.  I don’t expect most runners to be as “green” as Melissa, but my hope is that she’ll inspire you, whether you run or not, as she has inspired me to make a change or two in your lives. When she isn’t running, Melissa works a freelance writer and consultant on socially responsible business and media relations, and as director of membership and development for the Food Trade Sustainability Leadership Association.

This is the second post about my efforts to maximize and improve running performance while honoring a guiding principle that defines sustainability to me: “live simply so that others may simply live.” As noted…This is being shared for informational purposes only and not intended to be preachy or judgmental, as neither is my style. We all have different backgrounds and resource demands in our lives, and I’m the first to admit there are many things I can improve!

Racing

When choosing races, my inclination is to stay as local (for simplicity and cost rather than environmental reasons), where I can bike or jog to the starting line. (I also start runs from home or bike to a park 1 mile away.) When travel is involved, carpooling is a good solution, and of course public transit, where available. I volunteer to help set up and handle recycling at local race, and have started to share tips for making races greener, from the Runners World/Nature’s Path Green Team.

Races usually involve freebies, t-shirts, race numbers and medals. I generally decline the bag and swag, being stuff I wouldn’t use anyway and small sample sizes with a lot of packaging waste.

If shirts are optional, I decline to get one. Otherwise, I give it to my dad to wear in the garden or volunteering for Meals on Wheels to share new stories with his clients. Old shirts can easily be made into [click to continue…]

Running with a conscience

Melissa Schweisguth photo credit: TIME

Two of my passions are running and the environment. I do my best to marry them: I’ve recycled my old running shoes. I currently run in Vibram FiveFinger “barefoot” shoes, which are light weight and last a long time. I mix my own Gatorade from a 3 lb. 3 oz. can of powder, which saves plastic bottles. But I also use high tech equipment (Garmin GPS, Monster headphones, iPod shuffle), own dozens of T-shirts from races that are stuffed in a closet and drive 2-3 miles most days just to get to the place where I start my run. Over the years I’ve flown to marathons in Chicago, San Diego, Big Sur and Athens, Greece.

Melissa Schweisguth is a 36-year-old fellow sustainability professional and writer who also enjoys running. She puts me to shame, and not just because she clocked an impressive 3:11:07 in the Eugene (Oregon) Marathon this year. Melissa hasn’t thrown anything into a landfill since 2006, which earned her notice in Time magazine (due to non-consumerism and creative reuse.). She thrives on an organic, whole foods, locally-based and almost exclusively vegan diet, (as does famed ultra runner Scott Jurek). She’s been working on improving her running footprint to avoid trampling people or planet and has written three blogposts on running “au naturel” for her blog, Living Acoustically, which she’s kindly agreed to let me share here.  I don’t expect most runners to be as “green” as Melissa, but my hope is that she’ll inspire you, whether you run or not, as she has inspired me to make a change or two in your lives. When she isn’t running, Melissa works a freelance writer and consultant on sustainability issues and media relations, and as director of membership and development for the Food Trade Sustainability Leadership Association. Here’s her first post, about clothing and shoes:

Sometimes we need new, ready-made things, but, more often, we can reuse, buy used, or make something easily, and get a better, cheaper, more healthful product. It’s easy to forget this since marketers are skilled at wooing us, we’re encouraged to seek upward mobility and novelty, and our culture has devalued making things ourselves: gardening, basic cooking and the like.

While running, I’ve sought to maximize and improve performance while honoring a guiding principle that defines sustainability to me: “live simply so that others may simply live.” (Or, following this blog’s theme, unplug from consumerism and run acoustically.) Below are examples of things I do, some long term and some more recent changes. This is being shared for informational purposes only; it’s not intended to be preachy or judgmental, as that’s not my style. We all have different backgrounds and resource demands in our lives, and I’m the first to admit there are many things I can improve!

Clothing

When I started running, “technical” fabrics and performance-optimizing clothing weren’t on the market. I wore basic clothing and never really bought into the marketing around newfangled stuff. More apparel uses fabrics marketed as environmentally friendly, such as organic cotton, wool, bamboo, hemp and recycled poly, which are great if new things are needed. However, the most sustainable choices are items we have or can get used, which also saves money. I’ve found great shorts, tops and running tights at thrift [click to continue…]