Here at eco18, we love stumbling upon people who share the same passion as we do about caring for the environment. Recently, we were given the opportunity to ask the owners of Homegrown, a sustainable sandwich shop on the West Coast, a few questions about their sustainable lifestyle’s at work and at home!
1. At what point did you the two of you realize you wanted to change the conventional food system?
Ben: We were evaluating a bunch of social entrepreneurial ideas and we’re longtime friends (since kindergarten) and avid outdoorsmen and a shared love of being in nature has always underpinned our friendship. We kept coming back to the environment as the cause we wanted to dedicate ourselves to.
Brad: And when we looked for a produce that could move the needle on the environment, the conventional food system was just an obvious choice for us – with all its greenhouse gas emissions, large carbon footprint, chemical dependency for fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. And further, food connects us to the land unlike any other thing we buy. It felt like a great space to affect positive change.
2.What made the two of you want to create a sustainable sandwich shop as opposed to a different type of restaurant?
Ben: We developed the idea for Homegrown out of a drive to build a social business that affected positive change on the environment. At first we were a little scared as everyone around us told us not to go into the restaurant business. We just thought there was so much opportunity to build a consumer brand around these food ideals. So many people are living this way at home and shop this way at the grocery store and have no options when they go out to eat other than fancy farm-to-table fine dining.
3.Did you ever consider not using green practices in your shops (ex: 100 percent compostable products, energy efficient lighting) in order to make things easier?
Ben: No, we really weave eco-friendly practices through everything that we do. I think the biggest place that we’ve had to sacrifice has been the physical stores themselves – we now offset 100% of our electrical power with clean wind energy and we are working with some furniture designers on some very cool green initiatives.
4.Did you know much about organic farming before starting Sprouting Farm?
Brad: Not really. It’s been a steep learning curve for us. We started this business right out of college at age 22. Everything has been a steep learning curve! Farming is no exception.
5.Do you think there are ways to encourage other, large food corporations to become a part of the slow food movement? If so, how?
Ben: I think it has to be led by the consumer. If you look at the GMO initiatives on the ballets, so much more change has come from consumer brands like Whole Foods and Chipotle. I think it will take consumers demanding a different product and a different ethos from big ag for there to be a real sea change around sustainability.
6. While Homegrown practices zero waste guidelines, do the two of you practice living a zero waste lifestyle outside of work?
Brad: Yeah for sure, but we also live in Seattle where that’s pretty much the norm. The garbage trucks won’t pick up your bag if they see something recyclable in there. Growing up in this city really shaped our perspective on green living. When we went away to college, we were shocked by apartment buildings not even having recycling bins, let alone a strong municipal compost program. We feel lucky to be from such a progressive place.
7.Outside of running a sustainable sandwich shop, what do you enjoy spending your free time doing?
Ben: Getting outdoors as much as possible. We love skiing in the winter and hiking, mountain biking and fly fishing in the summer. The Pacific Northwest is a natural playground.
8.What advice do you have for individuals out there who want to buy and eat more sustainable food?
Brad: Know where it’s from and what’s in it. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is our guide to sustainable seafood. Pasture-raised, antibiotic/hormone-free meats and cheeses. 100% organic produce is certain to be free of pesticides and herbicides.
Ben: I would add that different people buy sustainable food for different reasons. The “my body is my temple” crowd are all about never putting anything bad in their bodies and there’s a whole eco crowd too, who don’t want to see the chemical runoff from farms and the animal welfare abuses of big ag. It takes all kinds to change the system!
9.Are there any future plans of spreading your locations out to the east coast?
Ben: We would love to open stores on the east coast one day. Right now our focus is opening up in the Bay Area this year.
10.Last but not least, what’s our favorite type of sandwich at the shop?
Brad: The Smoked Ham, Egg & Cheese is my favorite sandwich on the menu. And we serve breakfast all day so I never have to worry.
Ben: I love the smoked pastrami made with our smoked aioli. That’s my go to.
For more information on Homegrown check out their website here.