Cultivating Creation in the Workplace
James Cuthbert ’09 owns and operates Urban Green, a company that creates indoor gardens and green spaces in offices and homes across southern Ontario.
4 min. read
March 22, 2021

Before Cuthbert even started his first class at Redeemer, he had intentions of leaving. “I had planned on coming to Redeemer to experience Christian education for a year and then move on to a public university,” he explains. But once he arrived, Cuthbert was drawn into the community life on campus and the engaging academics in the classroom.

Cuthbert declared an honours kinesiology major and double minors in business and religion. “I remember meeting with the registrar to plan my degree and courses…I don’t think he had ever had someone choose this type of study path!” For Cuthbert, it was the core courses at Redeemer that led him here.

The core program is a key part of the university’s dedication to the liberal arts. Students take 10 interdisciplinary classes complementing their majors and ultimately preparing them for their careers and callings. Cuthbert was a bit apprehensive when he first registered for his courses.

“I had a plan of what I wanted to do and didn’t want to take courses that weren’t a part of that plan. But, after taking a few courses I realized, ‘Okay, this might not be what I want.’ The core courses helped open up my perspective and consider other fields of study and careers to pursue.”

It wasn’t just academics that shaped Cuthbert’s experience at Redeemer. He accredits the community life on campus as a life-shaping experience.

“Living in dorms and being on campus teaches you so many practical lessons, like how to make friends and how to live in community where you cook meals together.”

It was a friend from Redeemer who first gave Cuthbert a job in landscaping, which moved his interest to caring for creation. “I first got started in landscaping by meeting a friend who was looking for people to work the summer at his dad’s company. I worked there on and off for about seven years. It was working there that led me to want to work at Urban Green.

“It’s easy to get frustrated and think that God isn’t letting your dreams come true. But try to be open to seeing new opportunities ahead of you.”

After graduation, Cuthbert’s career path was in student services, working at several Canadian universities including Redeemer. It was while working for Redeemer that Cuthbert had a revelation to work with Urban Green.

“I remember I was talking to Dr. Berkelaar and Dr. Brouwer about my interest in working with green spaces and plants and asked about programs that might have courses I could take. They suggested I talk to Peter Tigchelaar who had a company called Urban Green.” As it turned out, Tigchelaar was looking for someone to take over his business, and Cuthbert was the person for the job.

In 2018, Tigchelaar retired and Cuthbert made the decision to buy the company. His dream of owning his own business was coming true.

Cuthbert has been with Urban Green for six years and counting. And though the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a few curve balls, he is hopeful about how his business can bring life to home workspaces.

“We had a weird year where we lost the most clients, but we also gained the most clients. With more people working from home, we’ve been installing and caring for plants and living walls in home offices as well as in essential workplaces.” Cuthbert is also partnering with Redeemer to design and develop a green wall in its new residence and learning facility.

As a Redeemer alumnus who has had a vast range of experiences, Cuthbert stresses the importance of getting out of your comfort zone to find your calling.

“Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and try something new. I was on the varsity basketball team and it taught me so much about work-life balance and how to juggle priorities. Those experiences have helped me in my career and in my family life. Be open to learning new things and hearing different perspectives—they could help you discover your calling in life.”

As for his advice for current or future students, Cuthbert continues to advocate for the type of posture he has learned to live by through the years—with hands wide open.

“It’s easy to get frustrated and think that God isn’t letting your dreams come true. But try to be open to seeing new opportunities ahead of you. If I didn’t take a chance at Redeemer and try something outside of my initial life plan, I wouldn’t have owned my own business and would be in a much different spot today.”

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