Lu started his career in industrial engineering, he couldn’t imagine that one
day he would be an entrepreneur focusing on sustainable farming methods. But
coming to DePaul University for his MBA changed that.
“In the world of industrial engineering, you’re trying to
figure out how to eliminate as much input as possible and maximize the output. You’re
essentially making the most out of very little, and I think sustainability is
about understanding that,” says Lu, a current MBA student set to graduate in winter
Defining What Sustainability Means
As sustainability becomes more popular, universities are
adapting their curriculum to address the topic. For example, DePaul currently offers
three graduate degrees in sustainability and is exploring another.
But even as
sustainable business becomes more mainstream, those in the industry still
encounter questions about it what it truly means.
Dhanda, associate professor of management, recently explained sustainability in
blog post for DePaul’s Department of Management. “Sustainability is
the buzz word of the moment! Yet, it is also difficult to define since it is an
evolving concept. In a very general sense, the term sustainability means
to endure,” she wrote. Dhanda’s
background in sustainable business led her to co-author the recent textbook “Sustainability: Essentials for Business” (SAGE
Publications) with fellow DePaul faculty member Scott Young, chair of the
Department of Management.
The definition of sustainability can
vary depending on the audience, but to Lu, its “very basic definition is about
understanding what you do and how it impacts the systems around you. Understanding
the system allows you to make decisions based on a new framework and a new
mindset. It’s not just about changing lightbulbs, not about green
marketing—it’s about understanding the world that you live in.”
Exploring Sustainability at DePaul
says his passion for sustainability grew out of interactions across DePaul.
“The environment at DePaul and the professors have been really fertile in
helping me shape this vision of what sustainability means for me,” says Lu.
addition to being a student, he recently was hired by the Office of Mission and
Values to be DePaul’s sustainability coordinator. His main project involves developing
an executive education program focused on sustainability. “We really want to
teach this concept of sustainability to business leaders from a much bigger
perspective. There’s so much more than just energy savings and recycling,” Lu
Expanding Into Urban Agriculture
graduate business class at DePaul, GSB 595 Developing Sustainable Strategies, led Lu to his focus
on hydroponic farming. In
conventional field farming, plants are rooted in and absorb nutrients from
soil. Hydroponics replaces soil with a water-based solution that goes directly
to the plant roots, which reduces water consumption by 95 percent and
eliminates fertilizer runoff. Hydroponic farming can be done indoors, allowing
vegetation to grow in the Midwest that might otherwise have to be transported
from warmer climates, such as California or Florida. “Hydroponic farming
shortens the supply chain and physically takes fewer resources to grow. In that
sense it’s very sustainable,” Lu says.
Lu’s newest venture is Garfield
Produce Company, which he founded with business partners Mark and Judy Thomas,
a retired Chicago couple. The company, which focuses on bringing jobs and fresh
produce to underdeveloped neighborhoods, wants to establish itself in its current
warehouse space in Chicago’s impoverished west side.
“Our primary focus is on wealth
creation in areas where wealth is needed the most. So for us that means
building a sound business with a healthy financial outlook,” Lu says.
“If you want urban agriculture to be something legitimate in the future and we
want people to be open to it, it has to be financially viable.”