Together with our partner Sodexo, the largest food service provider in North America, we are bringing our Garden Toolkit into 2,300 classrooms across the US this fall. Each Garden Toolkit is complete with our Mushroom Mini Farm, Garden-in-a-Can, and Water Garden, as well as our complimentary curriculum that helps students learn as they grow and rediscover the origins of their food.
Furthermore, as the gardens are harvested over the next five years, they will deliver up to a half million pounds of food. Schools will use part of the harvest for instruction and make the rest available for donation to local community food banks.
With Sodexo, we are building a generation of change-makers to support our mission to Undo Food™.
Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22, and during this day events are held around the world to show support for environmental protection. Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970, after the disastrous 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. It is now celebrated in more than 193 countries by more than a billion people every year.
Earth Day aims to raise public awareness about the environment and encourage people around the world to make earth-friendly changes to their behavior. Here are five small changes you can make to help our environment and reduce your ecological footprint!
Our ecological footprints reflect the amount of natural resources we consume through our daily habits and activities. Overall, humans are consuming natural resources at an alarming rate. For the past couple of decades we have consumed more resources annually than the Earth can replenish. Today humans consume the equivalent of 1.5 planets’ worth of resources every year and, unless something changes, we are expected to consume 2 planets’ worth of resources by 2050! If we don’t act now to reduce this unsustainable behavior, we threaten the living conditions of future generations.
The first step to reducing your resource consumption is knowing how much you are currently using. Take a quiz online to find out how big your ecological footprint is.
The meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Producing one calorie of meat requires almost 20 times the amount of energy as one plant calorie! It also requires a huge amount of water: An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef.
You can reduce your own ecological footprint just by changing your diet and eating less meat! It doesn’t mean you need to go vegetarian or vegan overnight, but try adopting small changes like Meatless Mondays to gradually cut back on your meat consumption.
Cutting back on meat can also save you money at the grocery store and improve your health! A plant-based diet, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients, while also lower in calories and fat. Switching to a plant-based diet can help you lose weight and lower your risk of heart disease.
Ready to get started? Kick off your first Meatless Monday with one of our awesome vegetarian recipes.
Leave the car at home and walk or bike instead! Replacing car trips to school and work with walking or bicycling can reduce congestion and air-polluting emissions. Cars currently account for one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and they emit a variety of pollutants which are harmful to the community such as hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide. The more people walk, the better the air quality will become.
Not only does walking or biking reduce air pollution, but it’s also great for your health! Regular physical activity helps build strong bones, muscles and joints, and it decreases the risk of obesity. In contrast, insufficient physical activity can contribute to chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke. For weight management, studies suggest that you should aim for 10,000 steps a day.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and adolescents get one hour or more of physical activity each day. Research suggests that physically active kids are more likely to become healthy, physically active adults, underscoring the importance of developing the habit of regular physical activity early.
Composting is a great way to decrease your food waste, reduce your impact on landfills, and lower your overall carbon footprint. By composting kitchen scraps and yard trimmings, you can limit the amount of food you waste and help reduce your impact on landfills. In fact, if you compost regularly, you could reduce your waste by as much as 25%!
Want to learn more about composting? Read our helpful tips on how to start and maintain your own pile.
Where your food comes from is important both for the planet and for your health. On average, produce travels 1,500 miles to get to your local supermarket. When you add up all the pollution created by the planes, trains, trucks, and ships transporting our food, it ends up having a significant impact on the environment. In 2005, the fruits, nuts, and vegetables imported by plane into California alone accounted for 70,000 tons of CO2 being released into the atmosphere -- the equivalent of more than 12,000 cars on the road.
That's why this Earth Day, we encourage you to make local start at your home by starting your own veggie or herb garden. Not only will you cut down on those polluting food-miles, but growing your own food ensures that it is fresh and chemical-free. Finally, growing your own food is an amazing opportunity for you and your family to engage in a fun and educational activity that reconnects you with your food and the planet.
Cities across America are taking initiative to improve green infrastructure and encourage residents to lead environmentally-conscious lifestyles, and some are truly leading the pack. To find the most earth-friendly cities in America, we turned to a variety of rankings, from Siemens to a study by NerdWallet, and noticed a few cities that kept popping up. Read on to see what consistently places these cities in the top rankings for greenest American cities.
Portland, Oregon’s largest city, has gained a reputation for being focused on reconnecting with nature and promoting sustainable eating, and with that, a reputation as one of the greenest cities in America. The city consistently receives high ratings for air and water quality, and in 2008, Portland recycled 56.8% of all waste generated.
Here are a few more reasons why Portland is one of the first cities that spring to mind at the mention of “green city”.
San Francisco has long been at the forefront for green initiatives among large U.S. cities. In 2009, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to require that all residents and businesses separate waste and compost material from normal trash. The city was the first in America to ban plastic bags.
With nearly 30,000 people per square mile, New York City is by far the most densely populated city in the U.S., and probably not the average person’s first thought associated with “eco-friendly city”. But population density and smart use of space lends itself to many environmentally friendly advantages, such as heavy use of mass transit, energy and water efficiency, and limited waste – all coming together to lower the average New Yorker’s carbon footprint.
Also known as the “Emerald City,” Seattle lives up to this name by setting the bar for green buildings and energy efficiency. Seattle’s publicly owned utility, Seattle City Light, was the first electric utility in the nation to become carbon neutral, and the city has set a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Seattle is home to the world’s greenest commercial building, the Bullit Center, and more than 20 other certified green buildings.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and yard waste make up 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away.
Composting your food scraps instead helps reduce waste and keeps them out of landfills where they can release methane and take up room. Composting may sound like a big commitment but, in reality, nature does most of the work! As long as you do some prep work and can manage a bit of maintenance, you can help save the planet one eggshell or apple core at a time. Some towns and cities have compost bins that the city or state trash service will pick up, but compost also makes a great soil supplement that you can toss in your garden!
Step 1: Know What You Can Compost
Many things can be composted, but it's important to know what can and cannot be added to your bin. A few things on the compost-friendly list include items such as:
Step 2: Start A Bin Despite common public opinion, composting can be cute! Look around your house and yard for a fun container that you can recycle and transform into your kitchen compost. Make sure it’s small so you remember to empty it often, and so it doesn’t start to smell. Empty the small bin into an outdoor pile where heat, worms, and bacteria will turn it into soil. There are a few options for piles: you can buy a container, a stand-alone mound, or you can build a more sophisticated bin with a small fence or barrier. If animals such as deer frequent your backyard, a container might be a good investment!
Step 3: Get Your Browns and Your Greens
It’s important to have a combination of “browns” (materials such as dead leaves, pine needles, hay, cardboard, and twigs) and “greens” (grass, weeds, kitchen waste) for composting. A compost pile should have a 3:1 ratio of “browns” to “greens”. Shredding or chopping these piles will help them decompose faster. The third ingredient in your compost recipe is water. The pile needs to remain moist to keep breaking down, so put your pile or bin somewhere near a water source.
Step 4: Care For Your Pile
Like most things, your compost pile needs to be shown a little love to get moving. “Turning” your pile will help it decompose more quickly. A tool called a “turning” fork will help you stir ingredients more easily, though you can do this with a shovel, too. Too much work? Look into a tumbling composter to help mix your compost for you!. If your pile is a free-standing mound, layer the greens and browns with soil or compost that is already finished. Your pile should be three to four feet tall. Make sure to wet any dry materials that are added. Adding a tarp on top can also help keep it from drying out.
Step 5: Patience, Composting Grasshopper!
Composting doesn’t happen overnight. It can take two months to two years for a pile of compost to turn into ready-to-use soil. Make sure to turn your pile every week or two to expedite the process! Find more composting tips and tricks here.
It’s Earth Week, and we’re highlighting college campuses across the country that have been recognized for their efforts toward going green! With more than 20 million people attending college in the U.S., these institutions have the potential to make a huge impact – or better yet, a very small impact – on the environment. We admire their commitment to sustainability as they move toward renewable energy, zero waste, and reducing their carbon footprints. Read on to find out what these colleges are doing to earn reputations as the most earth-friendly in the nation!
Reading nutrition labels can be intimidating and often times deceiving if you don't know what you're looking for. Here are eight things to pay close attention to when you're making decisions about what to put in your body.
1. Serving Size
Many of us know a whole pint of ice cream contains more than one serving (some of us eat it all in one sitting anyway), but many foods and beverages contain a surprising (and unrealistic) serving size. For example, chips often have serving sizes that are unreasonably low – usually about 10 chips. Nutrition labels are calculated for one serving of a food. If you eat more than one serving, you’ll have to do some math, because once a serving size changes, everything on the label changes.
2. Calorie Count
The word “calories” has a negative connotation, but your body needs calories to produce energy (so you can do fun stuff-like go for walks or work in your garden). As long as you are balancing the number of calories eaten and burned, you will maintain your weight. The number of calories you need per day is specific to your gender, activity level, and weight goals.
The number of calories in a serving of food is listed on the nutrition label, and directly next to the calorie count is a number showing calories from fat. Calories come from fats, proteins, or carbohydrates, with fat providing the most calories. Vitamins, minerals and indigestible fiber have no calories. A calorie is a calorie, regardless of where it comes from, but the source of calories does matter for health. For example, 100 calories in a big bowl of spinach come with lots of nutrients and fiber that will help fill you up, the 100 calories in one-third of a muffin have few nutrients, and are “empty” calories.
3. The Nutrients
You’re probably familiar with most of the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals listed on a nutrition label, but some of them may not be so obvious. It’s worth doing research to fully understand what everything on the label means (including those sometimes mysterious ingredients listed at the bottom of the label).
Here’s a quick cheat sheet:
Eat more of: dietary fiber, protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, iron
Eat less of: fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium
Studies have found that trans fats significantly increase your risk of heart disease, because it raises your LDL ("bad") cholesterol and lowers your HDL ("good") cholesterol. High LDL levels may put you at risk for heart disease because the cholesterol collects in the walls of your blood vessels, where it can cause blockages. High sodium intake can also lead to heart disease by increasing blood pressure.
Food labels break down total fat into saturated fats and trans fats (stay away from these), and total carbohydrates are broken down into dietary fibers (the good stuff) and sugars (the not so good stuff).
%DV looks like another cryptic code, but it stands for percent of Daily Value and helps you understand how much of your daily dietary needs are being met by a certain food. %DV represents the percentage of a nutrient in one serving of a food in terms of the recommend amount of each nutrient per day. (Remember to think of this as per day and not just per meal.)
You’ll see a %DV next to things like carbohydrates, sodium, and dietary fiber on the label. The percentage makes it easy to compare nutrients in different foods as long as the serving sizes are similar. Aim for a percentage of 20% or more for nutrients you want to consume more of (like calcium) and look for a %DV of 5% or less in nutrients you want less of (like sodium). %DVs are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, which may differ a bit than your daily caloric intake.
5. Ingredient List
This is the most important part for knowing exactly what you’re eating. Food companies sometimes use cryptic language and make it confusing to figure out. For instance, there are a lot of words that really just mean sugar. Ingredients are listed in order of the amount present in the food, so the first ingredient makes up the largest percentage and the last, the lowest.
Our friend Michael Pollan has a few great recommendations in his book “Food Rules”:
6. Flours: Enriched, Bleached, Whole Wheat
Enriched flour is in the majority of packaged food products you see on grocery shelves, but the name is definitely deceiving. “Enriched” flour actually has been stripped of nutrients during the refinement process, but B vitamins, iron, and sometimes calcium are added back in.
Bleached flour is turned from yellow to white using chemicals such as chlorine or benzoyl peroxide to oxidize the flour. Your body reacts to these refined carbs the same way it would to sugar!
For healthier, naturally nutrient-rich grain products, look for 100% whole wheat in the ingredients. Unbleached whole wheat flour offers higher fiber and protein for a similar amount of calories, so you’ll feel fuller for a longer period of time.
7. “Reduced” and “low”
These two words don’t mean the same thing and can be misleading. A food labeled as "reduced" simply means it contains at least 25 percent less of something, but doesn't necessarily mean it has a low amount of it. For example, reduced fat sliced cheese may have 33% less fat than the full fat cheese, but it still has more than half its calories coming from fat and contains 11% of your daily recommended intake of saturated fat! And often, reduced ingredients are simply replaced with other, more unhealthy ingredients – like fat being replaced with sugar. No matter what the front of the label says in big bold letters, always check the actual numbers and serving size.
While these are a great jumping off point, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reading nutrition labels. Ultimately, it's worth doing research to find out what ingredients and nutrients make the most difference for your diet and health condition, and pay special attention to those items on nutrition labels the next time you're wandering the aisles of the grocery store.
Walk into the grocery store and you're surrounded by corn-filled products—from the usual chips and tortillas to the less obvious—toothpaste, milk, sodas and the countless other products full of high-fructose corn syrup.
We've become accustomed to the many unhealthy uses of white and yellow corn, but hear very little about some of the less popular varieties—particularly purple corn—and its surprising nutritional benefits.
From the vibrant color to the unique taste, texture, and history, we quickly fell in love with Farmer Scott Johnson's purple corn in Dakota County, Minnesota. His lavender fields stretch as far as you can see, full of organic, non-gmo purple corn that has descended from an ancient Inca variety.
Beyond its stunning appearance, we learned that purple corn is packed with more protein, fiber, and antioxidants than modern yellow corn.
Farmer Scott works closely with Suntava—the first company to grow, promote and market purple corn in North America. Suntava carefully selects a small group of dedicated farmers like Scott to help ensure the quality, purity, and ongoing nutritional value of purple corn.
We caught up with Terry Howell who oversees marketing and sales for Suntava, to find out more about Suntava's “amaizing” food.
Q: Most people think “yellow” when they think about corn. Can you tell us a little bit about purple corn?
A: Purple corn is definitely something most consumers here in the US and Canada have
never seen before. But if you travel to regions of South America, especially Peru, you find that purple corn is a mainstay of their diet. For hundreds of years Peruvians have been making a drink called Chicha Morada from the purple corn.
Today, you don’t need to travel to Peru to enjoy the taste and nutritional benefits of purple corn. Suntava has been working diligently to grow our high antioxidant purple corn in various areas of the US, including Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Oregon, California and Pennsylvania. We plan to expand our growing areas in the years to come.
Q: What are some of the health benefits of purple corn?
A: In nature, purple-colored foods and plants are a sign that they are rich in health-promoting anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are what gives these foods, flowers, and other plants their purple, blue, and sometimes red coloring. Common anthocyanin-rich foods are blueberries, blackberries, and purple grapes.
Purple corn is not only beautiful to look at, but it’s really good for you. In addition to giving these plants their beautiful purple color, the anthocyanins they contain provide a host of health benefits including a powerful dose of antioxidant protection.
Ounce for ounce purple corn delivers twice the antioxidants as blueberries.
Q: What other foods, besides cereal, is purple corn used for?
A: You can find purple corn in snacks such as tortilla chips and popped chips, artisan breads and other baked goods, granola, craft beer, craft bourbon, salsa, frozen vegetable medleys, and salads.
Here in the US you will find Chicha Morada being served in most Peruvian restaurants.
The taste is very unique and very refreshing - it does not taste at all like corn. Peruvians also make a breakfast pudding they call mazamorra morada.
Q: What other colors does corn come in?
A: White and yellow are the two main colors we see. I think everyone is also aware of blue corn – think blue corn tortilla chips. Blue corn and purple corn corn might be
kissing cousins but purple corn gets the nod in terms of being a nutritional powerhouse. Both blue and purple corn contain anthocyanins, but purple corn contains 4 times more. I have also seen a crimson red corn and a very bright orange corn, and the typical Native American multi-colored corn we use as decorations during Halloween.
Q: How did Suntava get involved with Back to the Roots?
A: We at Suntava have been very active in our efforts to tell the food industry and consumers about purple corn and its health promoting potential. Purple corn fit well with what Back To The Roots is all about…keeping foods simple and healthy!
There’s a whole lot of confusion around the names “whole grain” and “whole wheat”, and these names can even be misleading. For something we eat so much of every day, we think it's important to understand what exactly we are putting into our bodies.
What does "whole grain" mean?
Whole grain refers to a grain that contains all of the essential parts of the original kernel – the bran, germ, and endosperm. For a food product to be considered whole grain, the FDA says it only needs to contain 51 percent of whole grains by weight. That means that the other 49 percent can be refined bleached flour, and the product could still be labeled as “whole grain” or "whole wheat"!
Even the whole grains that make up the 51 percent might not be completely whole. They could be – and often are – reconstituted in standard milling processes, meaning the wheat kernel is separated into its three parts and pieced back together. The FDA allows for grain to be milled and separated this way, as long as the three are later mixed in proportions similar to the intact whole grain. Compared with intact grains, processed whole grains often have lower fiber and nutrient levels (not to mention less flavor!).
So when shopping for whole wheat products, look for labels that say “100% whole grain” or “100% whole wheat” to get the most gain from your grain.
The way grains are processed determines how nutritious they are and, in general, more processed foods are less healthy. Unlike industrial milling, the stonegrinding process keeps the entire grain in tact, preserving the integrity of the whole grain.
Stonegrinding wheat has been traced all the way back to the third century B.C. where there was no reconstitution, or separation of the wheat kernel is involved. Still in our stonegrinding process today, nothing is added, nothing is removed. What's left? 100% whole grains with more nutrients and more taste!
What does it mean when a grain has been refined?
Refined grains have been stripped of their bran and germ, as well as their nutrients. Without the bran and germ, about 25 percent of a grain’s protein is lost and at least 17 key nutrients are significantly reduced. Processors add back some vitamins and minerals to make enriched flour, but whole grains are still healthier, providing more protein, more fiber, and many important vitamins and minerals. Carefully read your labels to make sure you understand what type of grains are actually included.
Today is Employee Appreciation Day (don’t forget to show your employees or co-workers some love!). Our founders Nikhil and Alejandro often repeat a simple mantra: do what you love with the people you love. To celebrate Employee Appreciation Day, they sat down to give us the scoop on their "badass team" and the secret sauce to transforming your staff into your family.
March 4 is Employee Appreciation Day
Q: Your mantra is “do what you love with the people you love.” How does that mantra reflect the culture of Back to the Roots?
Nikhil: At Back to the Roots, we've really learned that at the end of the day, it's not a company's products or profits that create success - it's the people. It's the energy in the space created by our team that's so special. There's so much talk of finding out where people should work in the terms of "for-profit" or "non-profit". I think what we've learned is those terms are becoming antiquated. It's really about "for-purpose" -and finding people who want to work for a "for-purpose" company. I feel lucky to have found happiness alongside such a driven, passionate team doing what I love, with people I love!
Q: How does BTTR show appreciation for employees every day?
Alejandro: We send love. I think its a part we need to get better at. We have such a badass team-with the attitude, passion, and hard work that everyone puts in-we can never take for granted how amazing our team is. I love making sure that once you make commitment to Back to the Roots that you going to work with cream of crop A-plus people. Honestly, it’s impossible to fully show appreciation. We strive to create a culture around great things being done and we always need to make sure we do more.
Q: BTTR started with you two as the only employees. How many employees do you have now? Are any of them people you knew before you started mushroom farming?
Nikhil: We have 16 people now, and that number will increase to around 25 by the year’s end. I didn't know any of them before I started mushroom farming, but Osvaldo is Alex's step-father. He was our first employee, an incredible rock for Back to the Roots, and now is helping manage our operations - I can't imagine being here without him!
Q: What are some ways you feel appreciated by your employees?
Alejandro: My eyes teared up a few days ago when we gave a yearly company update and at the end everyone gave us a mushroom hat and a card. Everyone signed the card and it’s amazing to be able to read the sweet notes with things that you don’t hear all the time since I’m on the road. We work hard and I love everyone I work with and to read the notes-it’s hard to describe it.
Q: What are some things you love about your employees?
Nikhil: I love being surrounded by people who all have this rare combination - an incredible commitment to excellence, are passion and purpose-led, and have a loving, caring energy. We all look out for each other. I also love our team's commitment to the details. Growing a company is hard work-really hard work-and you don't build things overnight. I love working around our team who all feel that same desire to make sure everything we do we're doing as best as possible!
Q: What are some fun things your team does together outside of work?
Alejandro: We have an undefeated soccer team in a local soccer league. Health is a big part for everyone. On our staff we have an ex-professional football player and ex-collegiate athletes so it creates so competition and comradery.
Q: On the website, you call the team the "Back to the Roots family." What makes a workplace have a family feel?
Nikhil: Family really means that, yes, we're all here to work and do our role to further the company's mission, but far greater than that we're also all here for each other. We share the same values, the same end goal, and have an underlying sense of love and respect for each other. Being a family means we're staying together through good times and bad, we lead with radical transparency in all decisions, we cover for each other, and we're supporting each other wholly - emotionally and professionally. That means giving each other the space and support to not just grow professionally, but achieve personal goals and dreams too. And it means being there for the long-term-not just talking about quarter-by-quarter performance every three months, but by looking at each person's goals for a lifetime. Being a family also means working really hard, because you don't want to disappoint or let your family down.
Q: Can you name an employee and something that couldn't have happened this year without him or her?
Alejandro: There are so many. Across the board everyone leads their team. If you’re brought onto this team, you’re not here just to do what your boss tells you to do, you’re here to think critically through all the problems. You’re the one making suggestions on what the company should do, and your boss is cheering you on.
John, our Partnerships Lead, happened to be at an event in which we met the founder of Presence Marketing, Bill Weiland. He and John started speaking and they pulled an all nighter talking. It led to Bill investing in Back to the Roots. John was in the right place at the right time and he had the hustle and grind.
Q: What are some ways the employees of BTTR show appreciation for each other?
Nikhil: As such a small team, we love showing appreciation for each other - and a lot of that stems from the small, day-to-day acknowledgements. To me, those are often the most powerful- the real-time, spontaneous expressions of gratitude. We also, "send love" at the end of each company meeting where we just create space and time for us all to say "thank you" and give appreciation for things team members did throughout the week.
Q: What are some ways that your customers express appreciation for your employees?
Nikhil: These are some of the most amazing interactions to see. I love when our buyers, customers, and community members send notes saying how they loved meeting someone on our team, the time our team took to help someone out, etc. We've received appreciation in emails, hand-written letters, videos, and photos. That connection to our community is so motivating. To see the impact our work is doing on making others happy and inspired is incredible.
13% of all Back to the Roots orders today will be donated to the Oakland Children's Hospital to support cancer research.
Today marks a special day for Back to the Roots—13 years ago our co-founder, Alejandro, heard those fateful words—"you have cancer." At age 14, he started his battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma, and endured several rounds of chemotherapy throughout 2002-03. Today, we are fortunate to say that he is 12 years cancer-free. On the 13th anniversary of his diagnosis, we celebrate his life and triumph over cancer, and will be donating 13% of today's orders to the Oakland Children's Hospital to support cancer research (more on our selection below).
Like Alex, many other families' lives come to a screeching halt with the unexpected diagnosis of childhood cancer. This year, we were fortunate to be able to work with the Osicka family while filming our Breakfast Topper Video. During the process, we learned that our young star, Preston, was in the midst of his own battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
From the video (and from meeting him in person), you'd never know the challenges that this little warrior was facing. While it has been a tough few years for Preston and his family, his amazing spirit and determination has been an inspiration to us all. Throughout his years of chemotherapy, he has managed to play Little League for the A's, flag football for De La Salle, has two seasons of soccer under his belt, and is a purple belt in Taekwondo. Did we mention he's in the first grade?
We are so excited to share that Preston received his last dose of chemo on 11/12/15. Today, we honor and celebrate Preston alongside Alex, and have selected the Oakland Children's Hospital for their amazing work with Preston and others in the children's oncology department.
Lastly, but certainly not least—we remember and celebrate all of the loved ones in the extended Back to the Roots family who have been affected by cancer.