Local Food Businesses Embrace Year-Round Sustainability Practices

By Lexi Lehman

Correction: The date of the Nude Foods grand opening celebration, originally printed as April 16, has been corrected to April 27th. Community is invited.

While Earth Day takes place April 22, a growing number of North Denver food-oriented businesses embrace eco-minded practices year-round. 

A Vital Root employee harvests fresh watercress from the BeatBox Farm. Watercress typically grows only during the spring months, but it can grow year-round in the BeatBox Farm. Photo courtesy of Edible Beats

Sustainability has always been a core principle for chef and director Justin Cucci of Edible Beats, a restaurant group with six locations, including Linger, Root Down, El Five and Vital Root in North Denver.

Each restaurant operates on 100% wind power, invests in compostable bags and gloves, and sources 50% of its ingredients from within Colorado.

However, Cucci hasn’t stopped there. Located behind Vital Root, the plant-based restaurant on Tennyson Street, a 320-square-foot shipping container stands, containing 7,800 plants at any given moment and delivering 120 pounds of fresh vegetables every week, year-round.

Coined BeatBox Farm, this shipping container contains a vertical hydroponic farm created by Colorado FarmBox Foods, a company dedicated to providing a solution to the global food crisis by building and designing high-yield and low-carbon-footprint container farms. 

“Installing our own vertical hydroponic farm has always been a dream of ours,” Cucci said. “As a way to combat the somewhat innately wasteful restaurant industry, we have a commitment to sustainability and waste reduction for all our restaurants.” 

However, the real magic lies in its efficiency. BeatBox Farm uses 99% less water than a traditional farm, all while avoiding the use of pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers. Additionally, it removes the necessity for regular produce shipments, which decreases both packaging waste and the emission of greenhouse gasses.

The BeatBox Farm yields 10 times more produce annually than a traditional farm of equivalent size, operating at a daily energy cost of roughly $20 while only using four gallons of water per day.

The diverse selection, including kale, arugula, watercress and a variety of aromatic herbs, enables Edible Beats to craft fresh and delicious dishes while also prioritizing environmental sustainability.

“Our FarmBox-grown produce and herbs are fresher for diners, more eco-friendly, and our kitchens love having this hands-on connection to the food we make,” Cucci said.

Yet, Edible Beats isn’t the only establishment making efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and help customers reduce theirs.

Nude Foods Market, a recent arrival to North Denver, is a zero-waste grocery store based out of Boulder. Its location at West 44th and Lowell, next to Tocabe, is scheduled to open April 10.

Named as one of the top 15 independent grocers in the U.S., Nude Foods Market was founded in response to the staggering 23 million garbage trucks’ worth of waste produced by Americans every year.

The market’s founders recognize that one of the largest environmental challenges today is the prevalence of plastics in grocery stores. And while recycling these plastics can be part of the solution, Colorado’s recycling rate is only at 16%, about half the national average.

To combat this, the market operates on a refill model, encouraging customers to bring back the container they initially purchased goods in or bring their own, instead of discarding the packaging after a single use.

“Saving the world seems to take a lot of effort, but in this case all you have to do is change where you buy your groceries,” said Verity Noble, co-founder of Nude Foods Market.

Products arrive at Nude Foods either prejarred or in reusable containers, which suppliers reclaim after delivery. For items not sourced locally, such as nuts or seeds, they arrive in single-use bulk packaging that is then either recycled or composted.

Nude Foods partners with farmers who adhere to eco-friendly practices, and they conduct thorough research into their supply chain to ensure it’s as clean and environmentally conscious as possible. Groceries purchased at Nude Foods can also be delivered by electric vehicle or bicycle to Boulder, Denver, Superior, Gunbarrel, Lafayette, Niwot, Louisville and Central Denver.

Newcomer Nude Foods joins two established refill businesses in North Denver, Joy Fill at West 35th and Tennyson and Zero Market at Edgewater Public Market. Both carry substantial inventories of refillable and sustainable household cleaners and personal care products.

Neighbors are invited to join Nude Foods Market on April 27 to celebrate the opening of the store at 3538 W. 44th Ave.

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