While much of the environmental movement has focused on consuming less, one fast-growing, eco-startup has embraced a different mission: create growth and abundance. According to co-founder and CEO, Justin West, the inspiration for Thrive Lot came from permaculture, which is loosely defined as the practice of creating self-sufficient and sustainable agricultural ecosystems. In essence, Thrive Lot reimagines backyards as miniature farms.
“There are case studies all over the world of families consisting of four to six people feeding themselves entirely from food produced on tiny, quarter-acre lots, with only a half day’s worth of effort per week,” West says. “This is possible because permaculture uses ecosystem design to create living plant ecosystems that mostly feed and maintain themselves, while producing food, shade, materials, and beauty for people naturally.”
West and his co-founder thought that many people would happily sacrifice the grassy lawn, swimming pool, or outdoor kitchen for something naturally nourishing and beautiful — so far, they’ve been proven right. Thrive Lot is reaching backyards nationwide. A customer from Arkansas recently wrote of the joy of connecting with a company that shared her values and helped to teach her young daughter where food really comes from.
West says that food abundance is one of Thrive Lot’s core values, as is education. “Many people are surprised to learn that healthy, micronutrient-dense food can be found growing wild everywhere,” he observes. “But these ‘food forests’ have and do exist in places that people have cared for all over the globe.” Simply stated, food abundance means that there is no waste required to grow food, nor are chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides used. Anything not eaten by humans is consumed by animals bugs, and plants, rather than thrown away.
In the three years since its founding, West says that Thrive Lot has created hundreds of living ecosystems that provide food, beauty, inspiration, and increase property values. But recent rises in inflation rates have made his company even more timely. A survey released earlier this month by retail platform Swiftly found that more than two-thirds of Americans are struggling to pay their grocery bills due to higher prices.
For now, Thrive Lot’s early adopters seem more concerned with environmental issues like droughts and severe weather than prices. “‘What needs to be done to save our planet’s ecology?’ is a question that we ask ourselves every day,” West says. “We have to consider the health of the living world when we build. Today, soil is scraped off and discarded in construction and poisoned and broken up in agriculture, leading to massive carbon loss, water runoff problems, and changed weather patterns — it doesn’t have to be this way.”
West imagines living ecosystems built and maintained not only behind homes, but alongside commercial buildings, with food ultimately produced sustainably and even profitably in the spaces “all around us.” Doing so, he says, would not only remove the bulk of pollution that humans currently create, but also regenerate life at a planetary scale and heal our psychological foundations.
“Look up some of the studies of the health benefits of spending time in nature, and you’ll realize we shouldn’t have to drive somewhere to experience the natural world,” West notes. A comment from a Thrive Lot customer on its website echoes his sentiment: “I feel seen!”
West acknowledges that healing the planet one yard at a time is hard work, though he has some advice for other eco-entrepreneurs. “Just get started, and don’t quit,” he says. “Embrace the struggle and the process, and just keep doing the one thing that is going to take you a step closer to the world you want to see each day.”