In the trailer from Vanishing of the Bees, one of the experts says that the Chinese character for “crisis” includes the characters for both “danger” and “opportunity.”  What a precise metaphor for our economic climate today.

In the global groundswell to change the way food is produced and distributed, entrepreneurs are opening to the opportunity.  I hear spirited stories from New York often and will bring you local updates soon.  In the meantime, enjoy these kindred businesses from distant lands.

SoupCycle in Action on the Streets of Portland, OR

This comes from Groundswell West, a.k.a. my sister Lindsay and her friend Elizabeth Moore in Portland, Oregon:  SoupCycle.  Started by two “soup lovers and avid bicycle advocates,” the company delivers freshly-prepared soup by bike to your home or office in the Portland area.  The standard order starts at $18 for a quart of soup, a salad, and rustic bread with the delivery fee included.  A meal this size is estimated to feed 1-2 people.  In New York, our density makes bicycle delivery standard (albeit ruthless to pedestrians), but imagine the carbon benefit of this model in our wide and vastly-paved cities.  They could create a franchise for every few neighborhoods.  Customers could also bike over to the franchise to pick up their soups, rather than get in a car nightly for fast food via a drive thru.  [Note:  The drive thru example falls under my category of "Confessions of a Midwestern Childhood."]

Beautiful utility: Unpackaged in London

The mention of this next business is dedicated to the first environmentalist I ever knew: Joan Landewe.  I went to high school with her kids and was in their kitchen one day when she returned fired up from the grocery store.  The store had not let her use her own bags to carry out her groceries.  They claimed that all bags leaving the store needed to be printed with the store name.  In those days, reusing a bag was simply not done.

Many years later, there’s a store in London called Unpackaged.  It is BYOE – Bring Your Own Everything, except the food you purchase.  They have that part.  They sell it in bulk and customers bring their own containers to take it home.  If you think you have a particularly heavy container, they will weigh it first and then deduct the weight from the final price.  Otherwise, they will offer their discount for any container that customers bring–including for the person who brings plastic bottles for lentils.  And yes, they let you bring your own bags, too.

Have you experienced a new food business in your corner of the world?  If so, I’d love to hear about it.  Opportunity — here we come!