5 Minutes with Nikhil Arora

We are constantly inspired by the changemakers and solution providers in the environmental space, and we have SO many questions for them. Welcome to our series “5 Minutes With…,” where we ask the important questions (plus some fun ones, too) to cool people who want to change the world. We’re kicking off the series with Nikhil Arora, co-CEO of Back to the Roots, an organic food and gardening company founded in 2009 after he discovered how to grow gourmet mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds. Nothing cooler than that, right? Read on for the full Q&A, and check this space every other week for a new guest.

What have you had enough of?

We’ve had enough of hearing “the market isn’t ready for that yet”. The time for action is now and it’s up to businesses to lead, not follow.

What makes you feel calm?

Taking a deep breath, closing my eyes, and thinking about the sheer wonder and magic of being alive and that we get to be in this amazing world at this moment. No matter what’s happening – that’s pretty incredible.

Why do you do your day job?

We think there’s not much more important and impactful than helping society rethink and reconnect in how and where we grow our food. Food and Ag touches every major issue of our time – from climate change, to healthcare, to the economy, to education/nutrition. It’s the most fundamental and intimate thing we do – grow and eat food that goes into our bodies – but yet our generation is so disconnected from it. We think one way to change that is to inspire a new generation to get curious again about where their food comes from and to reconnect with the land through gardening. We want to help a new generation experience that magic and joy of gardening, and through it, reconnect with their food, the land, and their community.

How would you describe yourself in a few words?

Committed, Curious, and Joyful.

What did you learn in the pandemic?

Gratitude. This past year has taught me and reinforced my gratitude for each moment – each moment we can be together with friends/family, each moment we are healthy, each moment we are blessed to stay busy doing what we love. So many have lost so much and have suffered so much this past year – losing loved ones, losing their work, or losing their community through the closures. It’s just reinforced what’s truly important in life and being grateful for each moment we have doing what we love with people we love.

What do you think the world will look like in 20 years time? Same/Different?

Same and Different 🙂 The “what” (types of work) and the “how” (technology/infrastructure) will change dramatically – more so arguably than in any 20 year period previous. But the WHY we do things – that’s not going to change, just as it hasn’t changed for thousands of years as humans still grapple with the same underlying questions around purpose, passion, love, right/wrong, and ‘why are we here’ that our ancestors did thousands of years ago (ancient greek philosophy, the Vedas, the Bible, etc.) Humans will still be grappling with those most human/fundamental questions 20 years from now – perhaps even more urgently – because the what/how will be changing so fast.

What’s the one thing we have to get rid of as a society?

Mass Consumerism. Consumerism as the path to satisfaction and joy.

What’s the one thing we need to incorporate as a society?

Humility. We are moving so quickly as a society and we need the ability to test new paradigms and technologies, but then also have the humility to change course when something isn’t working instead of retrenching based on egos.

What’s been your favorite trip to date? Why?

Ever? Hmm –  that’s tough. I really look back fondly to all the trips I had to visit/stay with my grandparents in India. Those trips had a huge impact on who I am.

What do you like to read/listen to?

I could give a long answer about the genres of music and list of books that I’ve been reading or listening to, but the real happiest things to listen to for me is being out in nature in the quiet and being able to hear the sounds of birds chirping/nature’s symphony, or the sounds of pure joy from my little nieces/nephews when they’re laughing out loud!

What is your definition of happiness?

Doing what you love with people you love.

What does change look like to you?

Change is personal. Change is local. Change is incremental. We remember the large pieces of legislation/sweeping moments of change in the history books, but that only happens through a million small acts of change on an individual level that then create those watershed moments. Big change is always created through individual action but accelerated then through collective reflection and response to those small acts.

Nikhil Arora is the co-CEO of Back to the Roots, an organic food & gardening company founded in 2009 after discovering how to grow gourmet mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds.

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