Since GLR launched in 2010, we have pledged to dedicate a certain amount of our coverage to the eco-friendly lifestyle niche—from hotels, to restaurants, to products you can buy on Amazon. In particular, we love to cover businesses in the hospitality arena whose products and services are enhanced—not compromised—by their environmental stewardship. In fine dining, for example, the attenion to sustainability by sourcing produce, meats and other ingredients from local farmers and fine food purveyers, actually leads to fresher, tastier and more wholesome dishes. When these restaurants and chefs are already among the best in the world, the results are both delicious and good for the planet.
It is no wonder then that the world’s best known independent restaurant guide, The Micheline Guide, has launched a new “Green Star” award to highlight restaurants at the forefront of the industry when it comes to their sustainable practices. According to The Michelin Guide a Michelin Green Star is awarded (annually) to restaurants that “offer dining experiences that combine culinary excellence with outstanding eco-friendly commitments and are a source of inspiration both for keen foodies and the hospitality industry as a whole.”
What Kind of Things Do Michelin Green Star Restaurants Do?
According to Michelin, all Green Star recipients are different in unique ways but they all make a quantifiable difference and act as role models.
This includes, working directly with growers, farmers, fishermen and foragers; including those that use “regenerative methods such as no-dig vegetable gardens and successional cover crop growing.”
Many of these suppliers go beyond environmental considerations to also address “issues related to ethics and wellbeing, as well as contributing to local, national or global charitable and educational projects.”
Does the Michelin Guide Have Any Specific Criteria?
In terms of specific criteria, Michelin does not give a lot of information on what the inspectors are looking for, noting, “there is no specific formula for awarding a Michelin Green Star, as every restaurant and its surrounding region has a unique set of conditions.”
While the guide does give some insight into common “green” practices that these restaurants follow to produce delicious food with a small carbon footprint there is also the issue of the restaurant itself and its carbon footprint. The guide is somewhat vague on these practices.
Having covered this area quite a bit over the past 12 years, however, we can make an educated guess as to what sort of sustainability practices these restaurants incorporate.
Examples might include: Menus printed on recycled paper; tables made from reclaimed wood; reusing and recycling flatware; composting vegetable waste; incorporating solar power; reusing LED, halogen or fluorescent bulbs (or using low energy light bulbs); reducing water usage with low flow spray valves; rain water reclamation systems.
Who Are the Leaders in Green Fine Dining?
To date The Michelin Guide has awared 359 restaurants around the world with Green Stars. So which countries are leading the green, fine dining movement? Not surprisingly, France has the most green stars with 87, followed by Germany with 67, Italy with 30, UK and Spain with 27 each and Japan with 23. Perhaps a bit surprising, the US—despite having 1366 restaurants with at least 1 Michelin star—has only 11 Green Stars, leaving us with plenty of room for improvement in the green, fine dining space.
Here Are The 11 US Recipients of a Michelin Green Star
Even in a destination as packed with luxury accommodations as New York City, there’s always room for 1 more. On the scene since 2017, 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge quickly became a must-book for eco-conscious travelers looking to trade in the bustle of Manhattan for the greener (in every sense) pastures of Brooklyn Bridge Park.
In the Time of Covid, the wide blue yonder is both my escape hatch and my sanity maintenance pill. Specifically the swath of public lands east and west of my home in Seattle. Out there, in the ancient forests and lonesome mountains of the Cascades and Olympics, I can breathe in the fresh air and not worry about tainted particles of disease, those “air-born droplets” we’ve heard so much about.
Only, those same mountains aren’t so lonely these days.
It turns out there are plenty other Americans with cabin fever, and outdoor recreation is seeing a boom like never before. Retail stores are sold out of camping equipment, fishing gear, bikes, and cross-country skis. Trailheads overflow with cars. Popular spots for hiking and angling are busier than Grand Central Station.
I enjoy all those activities, too, but thankfully I’m also a forager, which encourages me to get off the beaten path to go on a more solitary outdoor treasure hunt for wild edible foods. Foraging is a perfect way, in fact, to forget about the downward spiraling news cycle and find literal sustenance in nature.
And in case you’ve been squirreled away in deep quarantine, foraging is hip these days. It’s now cool to traipse through the woods, woven Guatemalan basket in hand, in search of chanterelle mushrooms for the table, or to brave the bite of stinging nettles for a pot of soup. Every Michelin-aspiring chef has wild foods on the menu, and the bearded hipsters in their logging shirts from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, are learning how to tell a Death Cap mushroom from a delicious clump of porcini.
But…about those Death Caps… If you’d like to learn how to find a few untamed foods to spice up dinner during lockdown, just remember the forager’s Golden Rule: Never, ever, eat anything from the wild without one-hundred percent certainty of its identification. While there aren’t many deadly poisonous plants and mushrooms, there are a few, meaning it’s a good idea to learn how to recognize, for instance, a common weed such as poison hemlock (looks a bit like parsley!), yes the same one that killed Socrates.
If you’re new to foraging, try to go beyond leafing through field guides or surfing YouTube videos. Take a class or workshop if possible, join a mycological or horticultural society (most club meetings are via Zoom these days, but it’s a start), and best of all, find a more experienced friend or willing teacher who can mentor you.
There’s ample foraging just about everywhere across this stricken nation, including within city limits. Every region boasts of a few specialties: prickly pear cactus in the Southwest desert; wild rice in the Great Lakes; onion-y ramps up and down Appalachia. In many places you can harvest something as ubiquitous as the humble-yet-nutritionally-off-the-charts dandelion year-round, or go for the more advanced art of clam digging or mushroom hunting in season.
Regardless of quarry, wild food foraging is a great way to get outside for a while and forget about what ails us.
When GoodLife Report first launched in 2010, I pledged to dedicate a certain amount of our coverage to the eco-friendly lifestyle niche—from hotels, to restaurants, to products you can buy on Amazon. At that time, though, most of the applicable products and places, especially those within the travel industry, came with a bit of a caveat: Continue reading →
The French painter Paul Cezanne once wrote that, “The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.”
His pronouncement has proved prescient, if not necessarily in the way he predicted. The first shots of the food revolution in the United States were, arguably, fired by Alice Waters at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, who raised the banner on behalf of local, organic and sustainable cuisine.
The political implications of mixed seasonal greens with local goat cheese have become clear over the decades. She, joined by other chefs and food critics, has educated diners about the health risks of pesticides, the environmental costs of factory farms and the carbon footprints of certain fruits and vegetables imported from South America during our winter.
The solution proposed by countless politically-minded chefs has been to support small-scale farms close to home. And while the cause has been advanced by both humble food co-ops and celebrity chefs, spurring a locavore and farm-to-table movement that has swept across America in recent years, there are a few chefs and restaurants that have garnered particular attention for their use of local ingredients. Many of these chefs and their respective restaurants have also taken the extra step toward environmental practices, in some cases earning LEED-certifcation for their low carbon outputs and sustainability.
Of course, sourcing from local farms and adhering to the latest practices sustainability means nothing if your food is average. Thankfully, when it comes to the food, some of the most environmentally mindful restaurants across the country are now also some of the best, with Michelin stars to prove it. Here are a few that stand out:
Founding Farmers, Washington, D.C.
Quite a few eateries in the Washington, D.C. make area “best of farm-to-table” lists but Founding Farmers stands out from the pack. And no, it’s not because President and Michelle Obama are frequent visitors. It was Washington, D.C.’s first LEED Gold Certified restaurant and the first upscale-casual, full-service LEED Gold restaurant in the country.
Since 2008, Founding Farmers has been an eco-friendly leader in the food and beverage industry. The 8,500-square-foot restaurant was built with reclaimed and recycled materials—heart-of-pine wood from an old textile mill was used for the flooring—and utilized VOC paints and adhesives in its construction. Ninety percent of the construction waste was recycled. The restaurant has an in-house water filtration system, installed low-flow toilets in restrooms and uses biodegradable garbage bags and recycled paper products (menus) throughout the space. The restaurant is carbon neutral, offsetting 100 percent of it’s carbon emissions by purchasing green power credits.
Then there’s the food. Founding Farmers doesn’t always use locally sourced produce and meat because it feels it doesn’t necessarily imply the smallest carbon footprint. Instead, the restaurant buys ingredients from 42,000 family-run farms around the country, thereby helping small farmers, ranches and fisheries. Farms and fisheries include Anson Mills in South Carolina, Piedmont Ridge Farm in Maryland and Cleanfish in California. As a result, the food is flavorful and most importantly, good for you. Brunch showcases regional specialties such as New Orleans–style stuffed French toast and glazed yeast donuts. Supper draws in crowds because of its friendly atmosphere and lovely farmhouse setting. Diners relax at communal wooden tables or comfy booths under reclaimed wood beams and dine on dishes such as line-caught plank salmon and southern pan-fried chicken with white gravy. Even the wines, spirits and beer are from small town distilleries and breweries.
1924 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20006 202.822.8783
ABC Kitchen, New York, NY
While perhaps not known for it, Jean-Georges Vongerichten has served organic and sustainable dishes for quite some time—it just hasn’t been a “thing” for him. In fact, the trademarks of his cuisine has been the exotic touches that can be traced back to his stint at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. Vongerichten’s dishes have long been scented by chilis, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves at his flagship Jean-Georges and his Spice Market restaurants. At Prime, another if his restaurants, the grass-fed and organic steaks that dominate the menu are delicious but not especially sustainable. At ABC Kitchen, on the other hand, the menu is inspired more by the Hudson Valley than Southeast Asia, and while it isn’t vegetarian by any means, meat serves more as an accent rather than as slabs of beef. Here, Vongerichten explores the possibilities of local and sustainable cuisine: whole wheat pizzas are topped with Jersey tomatoes, the potatoes served with his classic blackened sea bass come from upstate.
The décor of the restaurant also reflects the sustainable ethos: The menus are printed on recycled paper, tables are made from reclaimed wood and the vintage dessert plates and flatware reflect a commitment to reusing and recycling. The waitstaff is outfitted in studied casual outfits of Converse sneakers and flannel shirts – sometimes it feels like the entire borough of Brooklyn has been redecorated in a similar country farmhouse look – but we like that.
While admittedly not the first of their kind, Vongerichten and his executive chef, Dan Kluger, have brought their own particular take on this craze. The free-range fried chicken arrives light as tempura, in a beer batter crust, and while I’m not sure what is local or sustainable about the caramel sundae, it would get my nod for dessert of the year. Other authorities were similarly impressed: The New York Times awarded ABC Kitchen two (of three) stars and the eatery also won the James Beard Award for “Best New Restaurant” of the year. Vongerichten’s rebirth as a locavore is, we hope, not a sign that a chameleon chef has found the latest gimmick to attract diners, and instead that when it comes to what and how we eat, ABC Kitchen is a sign that conscious and not conspicuous consumption is here to stay.
35 E 18th St, New York, NY 10003 212.475.5829
Uncommon Ground, Chicago, IL
Chicago’s Uncommon Ground is the poster child for green restaurants in the United States, and we aren’t the first to have noticed. In 2013, they received recognition from the Green Restaurant Association as the “World’s Greenest Restaurant.” Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated, “Uncommon Ground is a great example of what our city can do and what our country can do, use water and energy more efficiently, grow more sustainable food, while boasting the world’s most sustainable businesses.”
Not only does the restaurant divert 95 percent of its waste from the landfill through a robust composting and recycling program, but they also produce onsite renewable energy. The interior design is warm and earthy, donning wooden table tops from trees that came directly from ones downed in Jackson Park in Chicago.
Most notably, they built the first Certified Organic rooftop in the nation, which patrons can go up and visit. When dining there once, I was pleasantly surprised at how much time their rooftop farmer spent giving me the grand tour of his elevated bounty and explaining the building process. The rooftop is fit with solar panels surrounded by manicured raised garden beds of herbs, tomatoes and more.
Obviously a rooftop can only supply so much for the restaurant, but the local concept goes beyond just their own building, to a commitment to source the majority of their food from local, sustainable organic producers – 24 percent of which comes from within 300 miles of the restaurant. Their menu is constantly changing according to the seasons, which makes each visit a unique experience that gives patrons a strong sense of time and place.
While people rave about the fried chicken and collar greens, true midwesterners like myself will can vouch for their hearty meatloaf, made with local grassfed beef and of course, wrapped in bacon and served with mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, and fried nordic creamery cheese curds (a product commonly found amidst Chicago’s lively farmers markets). For dessert, I’d venture toward the seasonal crème brulee or s’mores tart.
They support the local economy by more than just helping out local farmers, but also local artisans, as you will regularly find local artist’s work featured inside and local musicians entertaining diners.
They’ve even gotten into the local brewing business, boasting their own in-house brewery at one location called Greenstar Brewing, where they brew up seasonal, sustainable concoctions that are served up at the restaurant.
On the spirits side, Uncommon Ground created what they call an “eco-cocktail”, the Agripolitan, featuring organic vodka and orchard fruits. This eco-cocktail program has raised funds to plant over 10,000 trees in India as well as to work with Chicago Rarities Orchard Project (CROP) to build a community rare-fruit orchards in Chicago. The eco-cocktail’s ingredients change according to the seasons with varying orchard fruits.
They’ve also received accolades as a World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) Humane Restaurant, The Governor’s Sustainability Award and the Green Business of the Year by the Chicago Chamber of Commerce.
Original Lakeview Location: 3800 Clark Street Chicago, IL 60613 773.929.3680
New Edgewater Location: 1401 West Devon Ave. Chicago, IL 60660 773.465.9801
Bar Agricole, San Francisco, CA (currently closed while relocating)
[Bar Agricole is in the process of re-locating. When they re-open, we will update our review to reflect their new home, however we expect that they will implement many of the same sustainable features and work with many of the same local food and beverage purveyors.]
Bar Agricole is right at home in its stark, industrial surroundings of San Francisco’s SOMA (South of Market) neighborhood. Intentionally austere and minimalist, the restaurant’s sustainable design is how they earned Gold LEED certification. That, combined with their local, seasonal, farm to table fare (this is San Francisco, after all) makes Bar Agricole a green giant.
It’s no wonder Owner Thad Vogler speaks of his tavern endearingly as the “Farm Bar.” As Erin Archuleta of Tablehopper observes, “Thad believes his tavern in this SOMA outpost will truly uphold a San Francisco tenet: the intersection of urbanity and agriculture in our daily lives.”
In fact, Bar Agricole says it could not exist without the organic and biodynamic farmers from which they source and claims these farmers are one of the main reasons why the restaurant came to be in the first place. “It’s a mutually beneficial setup: we get amazing stuff that makes our food nourishing and intensely flavored, while supporting the people who have made it their life’s work to care for the land, preserving and improving it for future generations,” touts their website.
A main source of meat and produce for the establishment, Heart Arrow Ranch, started a RSA, or restaurant supported agriculture program (in the same line of thinking as a CSA, community supported agriculture program for individuals). The restaurant supports the farm financially in the early season in order to ensure they can acquire the necessary seeds and equipment up front. Eventually Bar Agricole reaps the benefits in the spring and summer of the cornucopia of fresh veggies and meat.
Woodleaf Farm provides them with delectable local, organic fruits, La Tercera Farm offers chicory and other fresh Italian greens and herbs, Full Belly Farm garlic, and McEvoy Ranch organic olives and olio nuovo, just to name a few local suppliers. The restaurant will even go foraging for mushrooms like white chanterelles in Mendocino during winter, should the rains bring a good harvest to bear.
Brandon Jew, coming previously from notable San Francisco locavore-focused restaurants like Magnolia, Quince, and Zuni, heads up the kitchen, which includes a hybrid gas and wood burning, eco-friendly Beech oven made from the oak at Woodleaf Farm.
Farm to Bar Cocktails
It’s not just their food that receives applause, but their drinks to boot, which contain farm fresh ingredients. The James Beard Foundation named Bar Agricole one of the five finalists for their Outstanding Bar Program award in 2012 and it has been nominated every year since. The emphasis on a killer classic cocktail menu instead of just great food can be attributed to Vogler, who has dedicated the better part of his professional life to being a bar manager or consultant to restaurants. His mission appears to have been to convince these establishments of the importance of tackling their cocktail and edible menus in an equally ingredient-focused fashion. But heck, why not just start your own restaurant and bar where you have complete control over your ingredients?
Keeping Up (green) Appearances
Bar Agricole went to great lengths to ensure that every detail of interior design and décor of this single-story, 4,000-square-foot space reflected Vogler’s and architect Aidlin Darling Design’s sustainable sensibilities and respect for history. The restaurant was built inside a three-story historic corrugated metal warehouse and maintained its historic exterior.
Chairs and tabletops were crafted by Sebastian Parker, a local woodworker, remarked, “All the wood for the chairs came from seasoned red wine barrels. According to the man who sold me the wood, the white oak was originally milled in France, coopered into barrels in Japan, and then sold to Firestone Vineyard in Napa Valley. They used them for half a century before I got to them.” The wood for Parker’s tabletops came from the reclaimed lumber of old Northeastern farmhouses.
Concreteworks built the host stand, custom floors, booths and bar using their ultra-high performance concrete reinforced with organic fibers called Ductal. The coffee and service bar illustrates the simplistic beauty of their poured concrete and is finished atop with a reclaimed wood bar. Concreteworks uses post-consumer recycled material and industrial products to replace the raw aggregates normally used in concrete. They have replaced almost 80 percent of the total product weight of their concrete with material that would otherwise end up in landfills.
The reclaimed whiskey tank oak ceiling supports a green roof above. Three large skylights allow for natural light to come in, decreasing the need for artificial light during the day. Each skylight comes fit with its own winding glass sculpture by artist Nikolas Weinstein and is made from distorted Pyrex cylinders that sieve the day’s light down to patrons below. Outside parking space was minimized in order to build a street-front 1,600-square-foot garden and dining patio surrounded by unpretentious wood paneling and raised beds filled with herbs.
355 11th Street San Francisco, CA 94103 415.355.9400
Providence, Los Angeles, CA
Before he opened a top rated restaurant in Los Angeles (arguably the best if you love fish), Chef Michael Cimarusti grew up on the east coast, in the great state of…you guessed it, Rhode Island, where he spent many a weekend fishing and digging for razor clams.
Cimarusti’s resume is not short on experience, having attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY (graduating with honors) and honing his skills at An American Place (NYC), The Forager House Restaurant (New Hope, PA) and Le Cirque (NYC).
Cimarusti is completely dedicated to procuring the finest sustainable seafood—from regional coasts and international waters—and treats those ingredients with uncompromising respect and sophisticated technique. “First and foremost, what guides us here is sustainability,” Cimarusti says. “We use only wild-caught, sustainable products, mostly from American waters, and look to highlight their finest qualities.”
The accolades for Providence include multiple James Beard Award nominations; “Top 50 Restaurants in the United States” by Gourmet magazine; “Best Seafood Restaurant” by Los Angeles magazine; the #1 ranking in “Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants” in the Los Angeles Times; and two highly coveted Michelin stars.
5955 Melrose Ave Los Angeles, CA 90038 323.460.4170
Ski resorts exist in some of the most environmentally sensitive places on earth so it seems only natural that they would strive to protect the land from which they prosper. From recycling wastewater to generating solar power to protecting the paths of migrating elk, resorts from the Sierras of California to the Green Mountains of Vermont are doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint and find a balance that lets skiers and riders enjoy the pristine alpine environment without destroying it. Continue reading →
5 Great Farm-to-Table Restaurants With On-Premise (Or Nearby) Gardens
The slow food revolution continues to sweep across the country. While restaurants in Europe and elsewhere have been utilizing locally sourced produce, meat and dairy for some time, Americans were slow to catch on. Beginning decades ago with activists like chef Alice Waters (Chez Panisse) restaurateurs around the country are continuing to realize the benefits of buying locally, whether its to help local farmers and purveyors or to have fresher and more beneficial foodstuff. If you live near a large city, chances are, you’ve eaten at a farm-to-table restaurant.
In the cultural melting pot of New York dining, obscure and sought-after epicurean delights are packaged, shipped or flown in from every corner of the world by chefs eager to impress the palettes of sophisticated foodies and distinguished restaurant critics. Continue reading →
Eco-friendly hotels are one of the hottest trends in the travel world. Not too long ago when one thought of eco-friendly lodgings, mud huts and outhouses came to mind. That’s not the case anymore. Continue reading →
International cities have long been ahead of the curve in terms of environmental initiatives and sustainability. European cities often lead the way, especially those found in Nordic countries. Continue reading →
Ray Bradbury famously waxed nostalgic about his family’s love of dandelion wine. The story first appeared in Gourmet magazine and conjured a mostly lost bucolic America in which everyone owned a wine press and the hated weed of today was thought of in much gentler terms. “Bottled sunshine” is what he called the tonic they made in the cellar. Even though dandelions are predominantly harvested in spring, the writing evokes thoughts of endless summer days, backyard baseball games, and kids with fishing poles riding bikes down to the local pond—the sort of stuff our current crop of post-structuralists might call a simulacra.
Sometimes I think I caught the tail end of that America in my own childhood, when there were still woodlots to roam near my family’s home and fireflies lit up the nighttime sky. Now most of us live in planned communities or the city. It’s paved. It’s crowded. But there are still plenty of dandelions.
The other day I went looking for six cups worth of the jaunty yellow petals in order to make wine. I started in my own tiny backyard, picking every one in sight. Then the front yard and down the block. Soon I was in front of the local elementary school, where last year I struck a bonanza of dandies, but a groundskeeper had already beat me to it with his John Deere. I continued on toward busy Rainier Avenue, once the gathering arterial for Italian immigrants in Seattle. They called the Rainier Valley “Garlic Gulch.” Now, after several successions, it’s largely Southeast Asian.
I walked through the community garden and found some beautiful bloomers. A middle-aged Laotian woman tilling her plot wanted to know what I was up to. I explained the culinary and medicinal benefits of Taraxacum officinale, how it’s much more nutritious than virtually anything we can grow ourselves, and she pointed me toward a burned-out husk of a house down the block. She told me an involved story about the fire and how her people wanted to help the owner rebuild but instead he was sitting on his hands. “He lazy but he good man,” she said. “I tell him you pick there.” This seemed like a legitimate enough invitation to me.
Indeed it was a dandy heaven. When no
t molested by the mower, dandelions grow tall and robust, angling their Cheshire Cat grins toward the solar life-force. I picked the front and then slipped around back, which is where dandelion nirvana truly opened up before me. There was an abandoned car and a loud autobody shop on the other side of the fence. A black cat prowled a hedgerow. This yard hadn’t been attended to in years! It was a sea of warm, inviting yellow.
I must have lost myself in the picking, because when I looked up I saw an old man sitting on the back stoop pulling a Budweiser out of a paper bag. It was 11 in the morning, and I decided this was a fairly valid maneuver on such an unseasonably hot April day. I picked my way over to him. He offered me the other can of beer in the bag, which I accepted.
No, I assured him, I was not. He was Laotian, too. His name was In Keow and he was 69 years old. Though the language barrier between us was tough, we persevered. His grandfather had once owned this home, he said. Next door lived a Vietnamese man. He said he was retired, that he had worked very hard, and that he would still work—but only for cash, no check. He was adamant about this last point. We sipped our beers in the hot morning sun.
In Keow was amused by my stoop labor in the dandelion patch. He had social security arriving once a month and some other unspecified payouts. Making wine—and spending hours plucking little dandelion petals to do it—was definitely not on his agenda. “I go to store,” he said proudly. “I buy beer.” As for me, I wasn’t about to argue with that logic. Springtime in America has never quite been what they say it used to be.
To make his simple Dandelion Wine, he followed the instructions of Pattie Vargas and Rich Gulling in “Making Wild Wines & Meads.” Combine 6 cups dandelion petals, 1 lb raisins, 2 lbs sugar, 1 tbsp acid blend, and 1 gallon boiling water into sanitized bucket. A day later mix a starter culture of 1 1/2 cups orange juice, 1 tsp yeast nutrient, and 1 package wine yeast in a jar, shake it up, and let it sit until bubbly, one to three hours. Pour starter culture into the vat along with 1 tsp pectic enzyme and loosely cover. Rack after three days into air-locked container, then rack again three months later and bottle. Wait another six months—until the depths of gloomy winter—to enjoy a taste of bottled sunshine.
The woman in the light blue shirt is raising her hand and I anticipate her question before the words leave her mouth. “All wild fish are unsustainable, right? So we should eat all farmed fish, yes?” I’m in Edmonds, Washington, teaching a cooking class on sustainable seafood. We’re only three minutes into the class and I’m already poised to clear up some major misconceptions.
I tell the class that I wish there were some hard and fast rules to navigate this new world; a world in which all-you-can-eat sushi bars and 365-day-a-year global fish availability mask issues of dwindling wild stocks and polluting offshore farming operations. The answer to her question is: It depends.
Many species of wild fish are doing quite well. Certain states, such as Alaska, prioritize sound fisheries management to preserve fish for future generations. West coast albacore, Pacific halibut, spot prawns and the five species of Alaskan wild salmon are examples of wild fish that are great choices. Still, other options exist. Squid, wild sardines, pink shrimp, crab and lobster don’t seem to be threatened. Other wild species, such as bluefin and yellowfin tuna, eel, aka unagi and grouper, for example, are, unfortunately, not doing so well. Demand is too high and our tools for catching fish too efficient. Wild fish don’t have a fighting chance, unless we can control our appetites and fisheries managers can prioritize conservation.
The most environmentally sound way of fishing is in smaller, focused quantities. Examples include trolling also known as “hook and line,” which is essentially the commercial version of dipping a fishing pole in the ocean, catching shrimp or crabs in a pot, and small scale purse seining (a net that encloses a school of fish), among other techniques.
Other methods are not as ocean- and fish-friendly: fish caught by trawling and certain kinds of longlining. Trawling harms the ocean floor by dragging heavy weighted nets across it. Trawling also produces a lot of bycatch, which is when species not intended to be caught are accidentally caught and killed, causing their populations to dwindle. Longlining drags a multitude of lines and hooks, often for miles on end. The worst way to longline is on the top of the ocean column. The lines sit on the surface of the ocean and unintended species get hooked (turtles, birds, etc.) in the process. After so much time on the line much of what’s caught can be dead when it’s finally hauled in. Alas, not all longlining is the same and major exceptions exist. Longlining along the bottom of the ocean, such as in Alaska’s sustainable halibut and black cod fishery, has a much better track record of catching intended species.
But what about farm-raised fish? Is this an option for environmentally conscious consumers? Some types of farmed seafood are extremely sustainable. Farmed shellfish doesn’t require wild fish feed to grow so there is no negative drawing of species (protein loss) from the oceans to convert to feed to run a shellfish farm. The same can’t be said for carnivorous fish farms. Farmed shellfish, just like wild shellfish, filter feed, contributing to better water quality. Few decisions are this simple: shellfish, like oysters, clams, and mussels, make the oceans cleaner.
Not all farmed fish are sustainable, however. Offshore farming operations, such as most Atlantic salmon farms, cause huge problems. Think of it this way: if there was an outbreak of disease among a group of people on an island where no ferries and no bridge existed, the disease would be self-limiting and contained. Compare this to a disease breaking out in the middle of New York City. Pretty limitless how far that disease could spread, yes? Mixing and mingling high-density fish farms right in the middle of wild fish ocean migration routes carries with it all sorts of environmental consequences including escapement, pollution and the spread of disease. The ocean is an extremely efficient distribution medium. Closed containment a.k.a. land-based farms are a lot less environmentally risky. Opt for rainbow trout and arctic char farms.
The important questions to ask when buying fish are: what is the species, where was it caught and how was it caught? Resources such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program and sustainablesushi.net are invaluable. A good rule of thumb is to buy domestic as we have far stricter environmental laws when compared to most other countries (Thailand, China, the Philippines, etc.) that import fish into the United States.
Sustainable seafood is a hot topic and American consumers are looking for simple answers and guidance around an extremely complicated subject. Many supermarkets, fishmongers, fishermen, chefs and restaurants are making the future of our oceans a priority. Find them, support them.
Becky Selengut is a private chef and co-author of the Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook (Lone Pine 2008). Selengut has another book coming out in 2011 called Good Fish on sustainable seafood. You can find more of her work at chefreinvented and on Twitter at: @chefreinvented
This year’s GreenLux Awards gave the chic Crosby Street Hotel the distinction of Greenest Luxury Hotel. The Gold LEED-certified hotel features 86 rooms and numerous common spaces, all in the heart of Soho. What makes the Crosby Street Hotel so remarkable is that its architects were able to ingeniously outfit it with sustainable features while working within the unique context of its distinctive Soho location. Continue reading →
Cade Winery of Angwin, California, is the first of its kind to win the GreenLux Award, for not only being ahead of the curve in terms of environmentally friendly business, building and farming practices, but for proving that a winery can adopt such practices without sacrificing the opulent atmosphere and calibre of product that make it high-end.
Cade’s strong commitment to the environment shines through in its Gold Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The winery has raised the bar on energy efficiency, having managed to reduce its overall water consumption by 67 percent and meet 99 percent of its energy needs due to the array of solar panels installed. Natural ventilation and the mostly concrete structures help cool the building while the cool-roof system on all buildings decreases the heat island effect.
In the construction of Cade’s facilities, architect Juan Carlos Fernandez of Lail Design Group together with Grassi Construction and Summit Engineering, few new pre-consumer building materials were used. This ambitious goal resulted in 65 percent of construction waste being diverted from landfills by incorporating recycled and reclaimed materials into the build-out. The steel beams are made from 98 percent recycled steel and all wood components come from sustainably harvested wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
One would never know while strolling through the property that some of the structural support is made of recycled glass bottles, the insulation of blue jeans and the beautiful outdoor patio table of reclaimed bridge trestles. It’s all just a part of the rustic chic look of Cade, which embodies sustainability.
Apart from the built environment, the breathtaking physical surroundings make you feel an almost instant connection with nature. This probably has much to do with the 60 percent of the natural landscape on the property that has been purposely left untouched to support biodiversity.
Step inside the contemporary, elegant hospitality room at which you can leisurely sip on a stemless glass of the recently released 2007 Napa Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromas of black currant and acacia flower blend with chocolate and anise essence. Manzanita tree branches—the inspiration for Cade’s eco logo—hang above your head at the glossy wood tasting table as you gaze out the all-glass wall overlooking the panoramic view of the rolling hills of Cade’s organically farmed vineyards.
360 Howell Mountain Road South Angwin, California 707/965-2746
Tasting by appointment only
Honorable Mention:Stratus Wines of Niagara-on-the-Lake claims the title of being the world’s first LEED-certified wine-making facility. It boasts not only a geothermal heating/cooling system, but a glass cube tasting room that maximizes natural light to illuminate the space, a gravity-flow processing system (in lieu of inefficient conveyer belts), a company Prius for local deliveries and staff bike lockers to encourage zero-emissions transit.
2059 Niagara Stone Road
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada
Honorable Mention:Shafer Vineyards of Napa Valley deserves distinction for being 100 percent solar-powered since 2004. Other sustainability efforts include making their own compost fertilizer, recycling/reusing grey water, attracting various birds and other wildlife to help cultivate the vineyards naturally and using cover crops to enrich the soil and prevent insect/rodent infestation without the use of poisonous chemicals. Shafer’s various energy-saving systems have reduced enough greenhouse gas emissions to equal the planting of 17,000 trees. Check out this video highlighting their sustainable farming practices.
Shafer Vineyards 6154 Silverado Trail Napa, California 707/944-2877
What combines the timeless cool of the Porsche 911 with forward-thinking technology while also offering a hat tip to one of history’s most infamous inventors? That would be the much-heralded Tesla Model S. Continue reading →
The French painter Paul Cezanne once wrote that, “The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.”
His pronouncement has proved prescient, if not necessarily in the way he predicted. The first shots of the food revolution in the United States were, arguably, fired by Alice Waters at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, who raised the banner on behalf of local, organic and sustainable cuisine. Continue reading →
When conjuring up ideas for greening your home, look no further than your own common sense. We all know that using less resources not only helps the Earth but can save you cash as well. Continue reading →
Flying cars don’t yet exist. And even if they did, their owners would be subjected to environmental guilt trips on a level currently reserved for people who hunt endangered Bengal tigers from moving Hummers. We live in an era when many purchases—cars, light bulbs, fish filets, cleaning products—are viewed as geopolitical decisions, so it’s not exactly seemly to drive powerful, jet-like vehicles for fun. Thankfully, Tesla Motors makes a guilt-free jet-like vehicle. Continue reading →
Whether you’re staying in Seattle or Miami, you’re bound to find a flier in your room urging you to reuse towels in order to help your hotel cut back on its water consumption and further aid its eco-efforts. While this has become an industry-wide standard over the past decade, other hotels are going above and beyond the call of duty to make their lodgings as green as possible.
Establishments such as the Hotel Terra in Jackson Hole, Wyo. use landmark heating and cooling systems and offer their guests 100 percent organic mattresses. Napa Valley’s Bardessono Hotel earned a 2011 Reader’s Choice Award from Conde Nast (and also the 2010 GreenLux Award from GLR for “Greenest Resort”), in part because of its dedication to environmental awareness. Products used in its restaurant and spa are sourced primarily from local organic or sustainable producers, while much of its wood interior work was milled from salvaged trees.
For 2011, we turned our attention away from resorts and more rural lodging. There’s no question that it’s more difficult to design a green hotel in an existing building than starting from scratch in a locale where space and resources are much more expansive. Despite some stiff competition from contendors across the United States, the Nines Hotel is the winner of this year’s GreenLux Award for Greenest Urban Hotel.
Over the past year, this popular hotel in Portland, Ore. has earned rave reviews and coverage from media outlets including The Today Show, The Guardian and Travel & Leisure. It’s all due to the Nine’s dedication to both luxury accommodations and sustainability. Located nine floors over downtown Portland atop the former Meier & Frank department store, the 331-room hotel opened in 2008 and quickly drew accolades for its efforts on the environmental front.
While undergoing construction, workers used low-emitting adhesives, paint and carpet to improve interior air quality, in addition to installing low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets which save around 500,000 gallons of water every year. About 90 to 95 percent of the 24 million pounds of debris removed from the building was diverted from landfills and subsequently recycled.
The now LEED Silver-Certified hotel receives all of its energy from renewable sources, including wind power and carbon offsets. Compact florescent lighting helps optimize the hotel’s energy consumption at a rate estimated at 26 percent less than code, helping it to prevent over 6 million pounds of C02 from being released into the air – the equivalent of removing over 500 cars from the road. Employees also compost and recycle used goods while the Nine’s cleaning staff use products that are Green Sealed Certified and meet LEE and IAQ guidelines.
In their rooms, guests will find bath and body products from Gilchrist & Soames BeeKind collection. The brand’s paper bottles use a 59 percent reduction in packaging material and contain no parabens or petrol-derived ingredients. They’re also free from artificial dyes and colors. Plus, proceeds from BeeKind support sustainable honey bee and pollination research at the University of California at Davis.
We shouldn’t neglect to mention the hotel’s Urban Farmer Steakhouse, which combines quaintness with 21st-century sustainable practices. The decor uses organic and reclaimed materials to offer diners the ambiance of a restored farmhouse with a modern touch. The restaurant’s farm-to-table menus emphasize locally-produced ingredients from the Northwest. Beef options are all organically raised and Urban Farmer’s 200-bottle wine list and beer offerings, in addition to its spirits, are all sourced from area brewers and vineyards. Those looking to mix elegant views of downtown Portland and Mt. Hood with an array of Asian cuisine and cocktails can find them all waiting at Departure, the sleek cafe and bar on the building’s 15th floor.
On top of the hotel’s environmental strides, the Nines supports local artists and volunteer groups. In the past, it has hosted promotions like “Give a Day, Get a Night” to individuals who are willing to trade eight hours of community service in exchange for a complimentary night’s stay. The lobby and hallways are decorated with original art that references the building’s connection to the city’s fashion industry. A large, black stiletto sculpture stands in the lobby. There’s also a small library filled with tomes from the city’s famous Powell’s Books emporium and memorabilia from local celebrities, including photos taken by Oscar-nominated director Gus Van Sant.
All in all, the Nines is a wonderful starting-point for any proper exploration of everything that the City of Roses has to offer.