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The City of Portland, Oregon

Sustainability at Work

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Back to the farm, less waste per plate

Mark holding radishes Crave Catering grew out of a taqueria Mark Lopez started with his family in 1997. In 2008, Crave Catering moved into their current catering facility in SE Portland. When they moved in, they retrofitted their lighting to be more energy efficient (with help from the Energy Trust of Oregon), installed energy efficient appliances, and adopted a goal of reducing their environmental impact by 10% each year. For years, they met this goal through things like improved energy efficiency, composting, and reducing waste.   

Then Mark asked himself, “What would it look like if we were completely sustainable?”

tomatoes on Mark's farm

Mark started growing vegetables and raising laying hens on the 2.5 acres he shares with his wife and two kids. He started with tomatoes, his favorite food. Today, Mark grows 25 varieties of tomatoes and 10 different types of summer squash, as well as different varieties of herbs and fruit trees. He also raises fifty laying hens that produce eggs for the business and manure for fertilizing the soil. For Mark and Crave Catering that meant closing the loop between farm and fork.

“I’m a tomatoholic. They’re my favorite thing in the world. Especially fresh picked off the vine.” 

Each morning Mark brings fresh eggs and vegetables from the farm to Crave’s kitchen in SE Portland. In the evening, Mark takes vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and whatever leftover food isn’t being fed to people back to the farm for the chickens and to make compost.

Mark is growing vegetables and raising hens as sustainably as possible. 

  • No pesticides, herbicides or chemicals are used.
  • chickens on the farmDrip irrigation cuts down on water waste.
  • Cover crops reduce soil erosion, naturally suppress weeds and add organic matter back into the soil. 

Crave makes smart use of their leftovers to cut down on food waste. 

  1. Clients can choose to keep their leftovers.
  2. Remaining leftovers are offered to employees.
  3. Large quantities of leftovers are donated to local food rescue organizations.
  4. If food has been sitting out for a while, it gets fed to the chickens or composted. 

Continued improvement

Mark takes time to fully understand the environmental and social impacts of his business, and isn’t afraid to change practices if a better option is available. For example, back in 2008, Crave’s truck ran on biodiesel, with the intent of fueling up on recycled cooking oil. But when Mark learned that the biodiesel available to him was a virgin product coming from largely GMO corn, he sold the truck, and bought a hybrid vehicle, shifting his focus to reduced fuel use.

Community involvement

It’s no surprise Mark thinks deeply about sustainability. He grew up in a house that had a vegetable garden, turned off lights and unplugged things when they weren’t being used. Mark’s environmental work extends beyond his farm and kitchen; he’s been a member of Greenpeace for twenty years and is a founding member of the Sustainable Catering Association. 

Crave Catering regularly donates food to Potluck in the Park and the Union Gospel Mission. Crave also supports the Oregon Food Bank and has taken part in their annual auction for the last three years. 

Plans for the future

Mark hopes to someday expand to a much larger biodynamic farm with livestock: beef, pork, goats for milk and cheese, laying and boiler hens, and maybe even specialty bison and quail. On the farm, livestock would be rotation grazed to build up the soil. He even dreams of opening a small winery in the growing Southern Washington wine scene. He would also love to have his own event space, where clients could hold events on the farm itself. 

root vegetables in bathtub

Learn more about Crave Catering's farm and sustainability practices.