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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Sustainable Man: Henry Owen

Jun 01, 2010 12:57AM

Green at Home, Green at Work

By Lisa Moore Photography by Meredith Jones

Henry Owen can sleep each night knowing he has a low carbon footprint. The 27-year-old nature lover believes that as a society we need to be reacquainted with the natural processes and he embodies that philosophy at home and at work.

Owen’s love for nature was instilled by his parents who regularly took him camping and hiking. After college he started learning how the food industry works and what he discovered opened up a whole new way of thinking.

“How this country and the world feeds itself is the underlying issue in both the climate change crisis and the health care crisis,” says Owen, who holds a BA in Psychology and a Masters in Early Childhood Education.

“We are paying the true cost of our petroleum-based, government-subsidized, trucked-everywhere factory food system in damage to our planet and our bodies.”

With that mindset established, Owen works hard on a personal and professional level to do all he can to live sustainably and, in turn, inspires others to do the same.

A visit to his home quickly reveals his passion for two things: chickens and worms. Seven chickens rule the roost and helpful worms kindly assist with producing rich compost for his bountiful garden, but Owen says his neighbors don’t mind.

“People will be a little apprehensive when you tell them you are thinking about getting backyard chickens because all they know are the 100,000 bird poultry houses that smell horrible,” states Owen.

“They learn that if you raise laying hens the right way they don't stink, eat bugs and are less noisy than dogs.” It doesn't hurt that he gives his neighbors the best tasting eggs they’ve ever had. Plus they are cute as babies and hilarious to watch as adults, he adds.

Whether you have a garden or not, Owen believes everyone should compost. An estimated 20% of the waste sent to landfills is food scraps. When they decompose without oxygen they produce methane gas, a greenhouse gas with 23 times the heat–trapping capacity of carbon dioxide.

Vegetables, flowers, indoor plants and yards all benefit from the addition of compost, says Owen.

“Adding compost to plants helps them grow and helps keep them healthy and disease free. Watering plants with compost tea (made just as you would imagine) can actually keep harmful microorganisms and insects from attacking plants.”

At work, Owen is equally diligent about sustainability. As Community Outreach Coordinator at Covenant Presbyterian Church, he works with the sustainability task force to reorganize and reenergize recycling efforts. He also started a small veggie garden that he tends with the youth and the preschool.

Owen is also the Garden Coordinator for the Friendship Garden at Friendship Trays, a local organization that delivers more than 700 meals daily to elderly, handicapped, and convalescing people who are unable to prepare or secure meals.

Started last year with donated and recycled materials and volunteer efforts from Slow Food Charlotte, the garden provides fresh, healthy, local food used in meals for the Friendship Trays meals. It is also a demonstration garden for work groups, schools and individuals to grow their appreciation of the natural world.

“It’s been interesting to see what has been possible with only volunteers, a couple bucks, a weedy lot, and a lot of excitement,” states Owen. “We hope to eventually have a network of gardens across the city that all grow food for Friendship Trays and spread gardening education.

To learn more about the Friendship Tray Garden visit

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