Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Rethinking Big Box

Big Box Stores are often given a bad wrap, though they seem to firmly fill a need in our lives.  This bad wrap is often justified for many good reasons.  But what if we were to rethink about their function, their form, their purpose, their method?  The Reburbia contest got me thinking about this interesting spin on Big Box stores.

Take for example Ikea.  If you have ever been in one of these they are huge!  I’m not talking about Sam’s club huge or Costco huge, no no, Ikea makes these stores look like mini-me.  The average Sam’s or Costco 190,000 square feet, Ikea 300,000 and up!bb1

That is allot of space, what if we could repurpose that space or repurpose the space of an empty warehouse, closed walmart etcetera to become a giant living grocery store.  When I say living grocery store, this is what I mean.

The interior of the structure will be converted to a giant greenhouse, where the aisles of shelves are now long raised bed rows of plants that the customers walk down and pick their food.  The guy that used to stock the shelves of produce section will now show you how to harvest it all, offer up recipes and dietary advice.  All the vegetables and fruit will be grown on site.  Chicken and beef will also be done free range in the area surrounding the store and some of the massive parking lot will be converted back to green space.  The store’s power could even come from wind mills on the property.  Imagine how much better your buying experience would be when its filled with shades of greens instead of harsh lights, neutral color tiles and obnoxious advertisements.

If you have ever been to an EarthFare grocery store, you could have a similar dining area, with daily selections of hot food (they make them daily, all organic and from scratch). Where I used to live, Asheville, NC, the grocery store also had a community center that anyone could rent and yoga, meditation, art classes were held.  This store could have something similar teaching classes on gardening, farming, and sustainability etcetera.bb3

Many of us know about the Urban Homestead, path to freedom.  They grow 10,000 pounds of produce on a 1/10 of an acre 20 minutes from downtown LA with only four people.  If you scale that to the size of Ikea, you are looking at 650,000 pounds of produce! Ikea’s are often built on 40 acre lots, so figure 15 for the building and parking.  I have read you can raise chickens under free range conditions at 400 an acre.  If you were to bring in feed, you could support a decent number of cows per acre.

Imagine how your relationship with food would change?  You would be forced to by local, to by seasonal, to know exactly what went into your food.  How would this impact the cost when you eliminate transportation, gasoline, repackaging, and merchandising.  Would this work, what are your thoughts on this?

  1. I've read the Urban Homestead, and i really like the ideas, even when taken to your scale. I can't help but wonder about what I can do at my own home. On a half acre in the far reaches of the Chicago suburbs, I'm significantly better equipted than most urbanites. I wonder how much space it would take, and what would be the best configurations for a garden to support two.

    More importantly, what happens when you try to grow plants indoors. Do they continue to produce fruit? Or do they still follow the seasonal cycles?

  2. Ok, stupid question from a mac newbie: I was reading this (which I really REALLY like your idea btw) and all the pictures wouldn't show anything but a lil stupid blue "?" This keeps happening a LOT, how do I see the pictures???

    • Chandra, That means the image is missing. It's not a problem with your computer but with this site. Either the original image has been moved or deleted.

      Ryan, can you check up on those links?

  3. I think I have fixed the issue, please let me know if it work for you or not.

  4. I can see the pics now, thanks! 🙂

  5. It seems nice, but why not just move to the country? I live in the country in England and most of the stuff we need we can get locally produced. Last week we went to a local farm, nearly running hens over while driving through it, and got 60 free range eggs for £3. In the supermarket you would pay at least £15 for the same. Basically all of our veg is grown by us or other people locally, again much cheaper than the supermarkets.

    Back to your idea though – I have doubts that such an endevour would be sustainable (in terms of food produced) for the same number of people that big chain retailers can be.

    • Wow! £15 at the grocery store! I live in the USA and we would pay roughly £4 to £5 for that many eggs in the store, at the farm I could expect to pay £2 to £4. Americans consume the most food in the world, however, we pay the least amount for food in the world.

      There are many folks who are trying to approach Tiny Living in a city and there are those who hate the country life. For me, I hate city life, visiting is fun, but I need room to roam and stretch my legs.

  6. It's a simple truth that many can't and don't want to move into the country. In that defense, I would like to learn a lot more about Urban or indoor gardening. I honestly believe that even in very limited spaces such as those in the city, we can each at least grow enough to support ourselves. That is something which I'm going to try to prove.

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