We recently had the incredible opportunity to volunteer at the GrowHaus, a local, non-profit indoor farm in Denver. Thanks to B Local Colorado for organizing the event, we teamed with CauseLabs, a certified B Corp, and individual volunteers to “B” of service. Our volunteering supported the GrowHaus’s efforts to provide the local Denver community access to healthy, nourishing food.

Wordbank volunteers at the GrowHausDenver Wordbankers at the GrowHaus: Aaron, Sally, Angela, Jenna, Michelle and Christina (left to right).

About the GrowHaus

The GrowHaus is a 20,000-square-foot, non-profit greenhouse in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood. The urban farm has a vision to “catalyze a neighborhood-based food system in [their] community that is healthy, equitable and resident-driven.” The GrowHaus achieves this vision through three main programs: food production, food distribution and food education.

Three Food Programs, Three Unique Goals

The GrowHaus raises a variety of organic, local produce, from arugula and kale to zucchini and squash, through its hydroponics, aquaponics and permaculture farms. All of this helps feed the local community fresh and healthy foods. The GrowHaus also focuses on food distribution by making food boxes for sale and selling fresh, affordable food at their daily market, Mercado de al Lado, making healthy food accessible to local residents. Lastly, the GrowHaus offers food education through public workshops, service learning, “Seed2Seed” (a summer leadership program for teens) and micro farmer training so local residents can learn valuable nutrition, gardening, cooking and farming skills.

Serving the Elyria-Swansea Neighborhood

The Elyria-Swansea neighborhood was established as a working-class community and is home to many families working in manufacturing and transportation businesses in the area. As a result of the local manufacturing and transportation infrastructure, Elyria-Swansea has become the most polluted zip code in Colorado. Today, the area’s demographic consists of primarily Latinos (83%), followed by people of African-American (10%) and white (5%) descent.

Elyria-Swansea also has the lowest household income in Denver, largely due to low education and employment rates. Without access to healthy, affordable food, the community faces high rates of disease and illness. For these reasons, the GrowHaus lives out its motto that “healthy food is a right, not a privilege” by providing direct, easy access to organic and locally grown produce in this Denver food desert.

Volunteering at the GrowHaus

As an aspiring B Corp and Best for Colorado Honoree, it’s our goal to be active in our local communities, helping and serving where we can; plus, it’s just the right thing to do. As part of the B Local Colorado network, our team was thrilled to partner with B Lab in serving at the GrowHaus.

Within the GrowHaus’s three food program areas, we helped support the food distribution services: food boxes for sale and the Mercado de al Lado food pantry. In prepping food boxes, our team cleaned storage boxes, weighed different produce for family-sized and basic boxes and packed boxes with a mix of organic produce, such as beets, beans and peaches. The food boxes are then sold or gifted by donations and distributed on a weekly basis to help close the food desert gap in the community. We also restocked the Mercado de al Lado food pantry with fresh produce and shelf items, which are sold at an affordable price for Elyria-Swansea residents.  

Mercado de al lado market at the GrowHausThe Mercado de al Lado food market at the GrowHaus (pictured above).

GrowHaus Volunteering and Wordbank Values

B Corp: Inspiring a Cycle of Positive Change

The B Corp movement itself originates from B Lab, a nonprofit organization advocating for “business as a force for good,” inspiring us to not just be the best in the world at what we do, but also the best for the world as we do it. That’s what inspires us to step in and volunteer at local organizations like the GrowHaus. Teamed with these organizations, we can alleviate the social and environmental issues that impact our community.

Volunteering & Charitable Giving Program

Our Volunteer Time Off (VTO) program supports ongoing involvement in local causes by encouraging Wordbankers to volunteer up to five hours per month, during working hours. This includes both personal volunteer time and company-wide volunteer events. Serving at the GrowHaus is a rewarding way for Wordbankers to use VTO to get out of the office and into the community, putting our words and values into action. For 2018, our goal is to complete at least 80 volunteer hours, across both individual and company-sponsored events.

Diversity

Our efforts were rewarding because we supported the GrowHaus’s mission in aiding the diverse residents of Elyria-Swansea with opportunities to overcome struggles with disease, lack of education and poverty, as well as help close this food desert gap. By providing basic needs and resources to Elyria-Swansea, the GrowHaus is helping this community gradually escape a cycle of poverty and hunger.

Environmental Philosophy

We support the GrowHaus’s use of only sustainable and organic methods to grow all of its produce. In fact, the Hydroponics farm utilizes a climate battery that stores heat in an underground chamber, saving over 70% of heating costs. It also manages to conserve up to 90% of water used in commercial farming due to the optimal climate, pH, fertilizer levels and water schedules managed by computer systems.

The GrowHaus also has a sustainable business model. Many of the greens are sold to local restaurants and markets, providing the Denver community with as much fresh and locally sourced produce as possible, while the rest is distributed to food boxes and to the market. This helps the GrowHaus generate income, while also serving the Elyria-Swansea community.

Health, Happiness & Well-Being

Volunteering at the GrowHaus as a company also fosters a culture that engages and promotes happiness for our own people. It helps Wordbankers feel connected to each other and to the local community as we positively impact our world for the issues we care about most.

Final Thought

We’re committed to volunteering regularly and encouraging our people to take full advantage of the VTO program. Whether we partake in personal or company-wide volunteer efforts, we’re hopeful that our values will inspire positive change in our local community and bring us one step closer to becoming a certified B Corp.