The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

For a Green Apartment in NYC – Check out Green Depot August 4, 2010

After my lovely farmers market cooking class on Sunday, I had the afternoon to waste and it occurred to me it was a perfect opportunity to check out the Green Depot.

And…. there goes my budget for the month. How could I get so excited about a place that sells paint, cleaning supplies, building supplies, and baby stuff? I don’t know, but I did.

I needed to figure out why I keep killing my herbs, so I bought a guide called Organic Crops in Pots. I wanted to learn more about running our itty-bitty household in a green way, so I bought make your place, an adorable, bite-size, hand-written treasure trove of recipes for face-wash, cleaners, salves, and even natural pain relief. I wanted to find a better way to mark my herbs (once I succeed in raising them) than plastic spoons, so I bought adorable up-cycled markers made from vintage silverware. I wanted to be able to keep the outlet in my room off as much as possible, save energy, and get off the coal-powered grid just a little bit, so I bought a solar-powered battery pack that will charge up during the day, and charge up my phone at night as I sleep. I wanted to figure out what to do about my brand new organic white sheets, which are rapidly becoming a casualty of hot NYC nights. (Read: I sweat a lot. TMI? Whatever.) so I bought Oxy-boost for my laundry, in lieu of bleach. I wanted to tackle our pre-war bathroom without using that caustic stuff, Comet, so I had a long discussion with Patricia and she recommended Green Depot’s own bathroom cleaner, whose bottle I can refill over and over because they have it “on tap.” Finally, I wanted to figure out what to do about all the food scraps we toss in the garbage every week. So I picked up a guide to composting in NYC, and will be carefully considering my options in the next month. (Compost in the apartment? Drop it off at a garden? Give up?) In case I decide to go forward with it, they have the most classic and un-hippie-like compost pales in silver and white.

I walked away with a $147 bill, I’m not kidding. The most expensive item by far was the solar-powered charger, at $55. Was it worth it? Ehhhh, maybe. If I turn off my electricity except when I’m running the air conditioning or my hair dryer, I could probably make up the difference within a few months. Also, it’s just cool.

When I left, I walked west from Green Depot’s spot on Bowery, and found myself smack dab in the middle of the Soho shopping district, where every store front is filled with dresses, purses, and shoes. “Don’t look don’t look don’t look don’t look,” I told myself. “Just make it through without stepping in a store.”

I made it through ok. But what does it say about my priorities that I will pay $150 for herb-growing supplies, solar powered chargers, and green cleaning supplies, but not a cute dress? (Which, by the way, I have far too many of.) I think it says my priorities are firmly in the right place.

Advertisements
 

Farmers Market Cooking – the Right Way August 3, 2010

As you know, I’ve had several forays into farmers market cooking. It is usually sporadic, however, and often involves potatoes. They keep well and need nothing more than olive oil. But lately I’ve been seriously lagging, mostly because all the farmers markets close at five. Five! Unless I make it there on Saturday or Sunday, well, than it’s off to Whole Foods, or – even lazier – my corner grocery store for pesticide laden produce from California.

I’m a bad person. I know!

Anyway, in an attempt to redeem myself I signed up for a cooking class with the owner of Home Cooking NYC, Jennifer Clair. The menu was composed almost entirely of farmers market goodies, save the lemon, sugar, salt, and flour. Hmm, maybe the butter too. But really, it was a very small percentage wasn’t fresh from the stalls.

Jennifer is extremely knowledgeable. In contrast to my last cooking class, which was long on knife technique and short on instruction on high quality ingredients, Jennifer was all about getting the best stuff. She talked about the meaty wonderfullness of heirloom tomatoes, the robust flavor of fresh garlic, the dense nutritional value of farro (an “uber grain” she called it), the merits of salt, and the demerits of processed food, how to store various fresh herbs, and the importance of choosing sustainable fish and humanely raised meat.

In short, she imparted a gold mine of information about how to cook and eat healthfully. She agrees with Michael Pollan on many points, including the fact that Americans devote a too small percentage of their budget to food. “I spend most of my money on food,” she said. As someone who enjoys paying $4 for an heirloom tomato so she can bite into like an apple, she was definitely telling the truth.

So what goodies did she demonstrate? Check out these photos of the fresh ingredients before they were whipped into munch-worthy shape by Jennifer:

Fresh Tomato, Fennel and Corn Relish over tilapia fish. Lightly floured and tossed in a non-stick pan with olive oil, tilapia is an easy cook – it holds together well and is always a good choice for the cook who is conscientious of depleted fish stocks.

Roasted Ratatouille with eggplant, zucchini, onion, garlic, bell peppers, thyme, tomatoes, basil, and – a untraditional addition which really amped up the flavor – kalamata olives, all spooned over farro. A great choice for this time of year, ratatouille brings together a bounty harvest of mid-summer flavors. It may be a “peasant dish” but it tastes like royalty.

Magret duck with a summer fruit compote. Seeing that the Columbia farmers market near me has no chicken, but has duck, I was grateful for this recipe. It combines savory duck, with sweet fruit in a way I didn’t think possible. It wasn’t quite as good as the duck from Bobo in the West Village, but that is a really, really high bar. You can also try the compote over chicken or pork, or mix it up with other fruit, even apples. Tasty!

The empanada and the peach pie met, fell in love, and had a little bastard child called “hand pie.” It’s got it’s momma’s good looks and it’s daddy’s money, and it’s flaky, buttery crust encases a sweet fruit filling that will knock you out. Did I mention it was yummy?

The end result was a family-style lunch that was just the right amount of filling, and good conversation with other aware foodies from NYC and Connecticut.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t reproduce her recipes here, well, a. it doesn’t do them justice, and b. I don’t want to steal her thunder! I highly recommend Jennifer’s classes. Find more here, including private lessons in the home and lessons in her home kitchen in the Hudson Valley.

P.S. It’s National Farmers Market Week!

 

Put it on the To Do List: The Hester Street Fair July 27, 2010

Sunday, after having a delicious brunch at the sustainable and organic Community Food and Juice in our neighborhood on the Upper West Side, Vicki (the roomie) and I set out on an adventure all the way down to the Lower East Side. I was actually just there Saturday night with Agatha, my friend from work. But I wasn’t going down there on Sunday for Ommegang beer and gin and tonics. Nope, I was headed down to sample hand crafted macarons, spicy popsicles, and peruse some vintage wares and locally-made crafts.

Allow me this rant first: Sometimes I really hate the MTA. New York’s transportation system is like a five year old’s birthday party run by a drunk grown up: nobody knows what is going on, it’s always a mess, and there ends up being a lot of pissed off people.

I had gone jogging earlier in the morning at 9, and reported back to Vicki that it wasn’t “that bad. It’s doable.” But as we came closer to noon, the heat became close to unbearable. Vicki and I found that the subway 1 line was not stopping at 125th, 116th, 110th, or 103 going downtown. Since we live at 110th, this put us in a predicament. We waited at the bus stop, panting like poodles in the heat. One bus rumbled by, too full to stop. Another pulled over to let over a little old Asian couple, but didn’t allow anyone on. Our trip to the fair seemed like it might be a huge mistake. Vicki suggested we walk east to the AC line, four long blocks West. Peering out from our shady spot under the bus shelter was like gazing from an oasis across a parched desert. But I finally agreed. We passed through a pedestrian fairway with shady trees, and finally managed to get a train going in the right direction, cooling off in the wonderfully icy interior of the subway car. From the Grand St subway stop, the fair was only a few blocks away.

The Hester Street fair is deceptively small. With only a hundred yards of grounds, you would think you would get bored quickly. And yeah, you might if you like to speed shop and you aren’t hungry. But Vicki and I spent nearly an hour as we hopped from booth to booth, gossiping with the vendors, asking them about their foods and crafts, and nibbling on the tasties.

After passing by some cute stationary (which is getting old, I feel like a see at least one – if not three – hand printed stationary table at every fair in New York) we stopped at DBA. I thought DBA only produces beautifully simple biodegradable pens, but upon visiting their site right now, I’ve found all sorts of nice little sustainable things that are “forthcoming,” like a dishrack, an extension cord, and a heater. Ok, sounds boring, but it would be the most stylish extension cord you ever owned, trust me. But right now, besides the matte black pen that uses non-toxic ink and is 98% biodegradable, they also have an “endless notebook” that can

be combined and rearranged to create your perfect little notebook. It’s 100% post-consumer waste and chlorine free. If you don’t have a compost bin, you can just send the pen back, and they’ll take care of it for you!

I scribbled a bit using the pen and chatted with Niamh (pronounced Neev – she’s one of those Irish beauties whose name is crazily spelled) Hughes, the Business Development Manager. She tried on my Kayu glasses, saying she had  been salivating over them for some time. I think they actually looked cuter on her than on I…Obviously, I bought a pack of the pens, happy to support the venture.

Next door: the Macaron Parlour with Simon Tung manning the table. We’re lucky we didn’t come Friday, because the shop had sold out, riding on a wave of customers after a mention in the Daily Candy. But today he had lots of flavors. I tried the lemon macaron, which seems silly in hindsight, with flavors like candied bacon with maple cream cheese, thai chili, and earl grey available. I mean, I’m not saying was disappointed with my choice. I bit in

to the flaky crust which melted away to reveal the ganache filling – tart and tasty. “This is better than Laduree!” I declared. He practically blushed. “No way, that isn’t true. Though Christina [Christina Ha, his business partner] did study under Pierre Herme in Paris.” I nodded like I knew what he was talking about. It sounded impressive, at least.

Vicki ordered the cinnamon pistachio with morello cherries, which I nibbled on as well. Not bad!

Moving on to the next yummy thing, I had a iced lychee white tea, then a delicious waffle with sweet red bean in the center. A bean filling sounds savory, but this one was sweet, almost like a fruit filling. And they were shaped like fish! Charming. I felt bad for the pair manning the griddle, in the 90 degree heat though. Luckily nearby there was a tent whose sole purpose was to cover visitors with a cool mist.

Also, I almost got a ping pong ball the to the face, but luckily one of the players snatched it from the air by my head. Of course, I had no clue until they both started laughing. Typically me.

Vicki and I perused some vintage jewelry and dishes, marveling at an old butter churn and examining old postcards. I gave some serious thought to getting some lovely jars (something I’ve been obsessed with lately) but the swing-top lid was so rusty it was a struggle to get it open and that’s not something I wanted to deal with on a daily basis.

I passed by Laura Fisk’s table and fell in love with her printed cotton accessories. There were classy cobalt blue napkins with ruby pomegranates. “If I had a real house with more than two seats at a table, I would get those,” I told Vicki. Instead I opted for a pretty little apron with an adjustable neck, and cupcakes on the front. I was giddy when Laura yanked on the strings and the apron slid up. “We short people always have to fold it up,” she said. I totally agree. It gets annoying that normal aprons starts right under my boobs. She also had a children’s book, stationary, and some children’s-sized aprons. They’re printed with non-toxic inks as well, though I wish it was organic cotton. Can’t win ’em all!

You can see her stuff at fiskandfern.com.

Of course, it wasn’t all stuffing my face with food and shopping for myself. I shopped for other people too! I bought Mike a very manly belt from Feur Wear made from out-of-commission German fire hoses. That’s Dave, above, posing with the belt. His company, Holstee, is selling the belts for Feur Wear, because they like the German company’s stuff so much and wants to see them in the US. Holstee designs and curates beautifully designed sustainable goods, and you should really give their website a look, because there is some uber-cool stuff on there. It debunks the myth that sustainable design is all hippie skirts and fanciful stationary.

I especially love their manifesto:

“This is your life. Do what you love and do it often. If you don’t like something, change it. If you don’t like your job, quit. If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love…” And on. (I don’t want to brush up against copyright infringement by reprinting the whole thing here…” You’ll have to check it out for yourself.

Next to Holstee was a table displaying some select stuff from Sustainable NYC: adorable fold-up reusable bags, Toms shoes, soy candles, and upcycled purses. I did not even know this place existed, but now I feel like I have to go there! It’s at Avenue A and 9th St. A bit out of the way for me, but still….

At this point another vendor piped up, saying a huge rain storm was about ten minutes away. To the West the sky was dark and ominous. Vicki wanted to leave right then, but I wanted to stay a little longer.

Finally we stopped at Xoom for some smoothie samples. I wish this smoothie and tea shop wasn’t so far away from me, because if Xoom was on the UWS, it would replace my obsession with Juice Generation, I’m sure. Not only because the smoothies are delicious, but their green creds (to the right) are top notch.

At this point we hurried away from the fair to beat the rain. As fat raindrops spattered the sidewalk, I took one last picture of the bike valet and Vicki and I promised each other we would come back to try everything else. What we didn’t get to sample: the ice cream sandwiches, sassily flavored popsicles, and barbecue. Not to mention the adorable yoga bags I forgot to go back for. Another day, another time…

Vicki set off in a dead run for the subway, with me calling after her. “Wait up!” as I struggled to run in my Jack Rogers. You would think she would melt or something. We waited on the platform for a full twenty minutes, watching train after train go by on the opposite platform. Finally a voice over the intercom. “Wah wah wah Brooklyn bound only wah wah.”

That’s when we saw a sign saying no north-bound trains at that station. Awesome. We emerged, walked ten steps and then the skies let loose. Luckily the Green Market farmers market was right next to use, so we hid under a tent and chatted with the Green Market worker about her time in India while waiting for the downpour to ease. (I love New York!)

When the rain eased up a little, we walked on, stopping at The Pickle Guys for Vicki, and then we hopped a bus and took it up to The Strand. Can you believe I’ve never been to this bookstore before? I could spend hours in there, but I stuck to my shopping list and walked away with Markets of New York City (natch), 101 Things I learned in Culinary School, and Remember Be Here Now, the classic hippie tome about the spiritual life. That and psychedelic drugs, ha.

Finally we hopped on the subway and came home. I cooked some stir fry up for Vicki and Mike, Vicki made mimosas, and it was a good day.

 

How to Grocery Shop the Green Way, and My New Fave Grocery Store July 24, 2010

Last Friday evening I had plans to go see a movie (or two) with Vicki, but she had come down with strep throat. As I rode the elevator down to the lobby at my work, I wondered what I would do with my night. I could call some friends, but instead I decided to have a low key night in, and cook for myself.

I hardly ever cook. I know that it’s a great thing to do, but when I get home at eight every night, and want to get up at 6 the next morning…well, I have my priorities. So I relished the thought of having an evening to practice my cooking skills and get a good night’s sleep. (Yes, this is old woman behavior. No, I am not ashamed.)

I had visited the Westerly Natural Market a few times before, but in a slap-dash, grab-and-go sort of way. Located at 54th and 7th Avenue, Westerly Natural Market is like a more authentic version of Whole Foods. Instead of well-dressed, gossipy girls, there was a pair of old woman trading witty banter as they perused the full four aisles of natural supplements. Instead of women dressed head to toe in Lululemon, there was a woman dressed in t-shirts and jeans, with a fair-trade looking purse slung over their shoulder. There was a guy wandering around with both a shopping bag and his bicycle helmet slung over his arm.

I enlisted my iPhone to help me with my mission to cook something easy and healthy. I’ve been saving recipes on Delicious, and now pulled them up using the Delicious App. I chose Lamp Chops with Pistachio Tapenade, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.

Westerly Natural Market has a basic produce aisle, four aisle of supplements and pills, and three or four aisles of both gourmet and beautifully packaged foods, and foods that looked like they had been lovingly cooked and packaged in someone’s apartment in Brooklyn. I wandered up and down, looking for my ingredients. (“Mmmm, homemade peanut butter granola! FOCUS Alden”.) When I couldn’t find the garlic, the manager cheerfully showed me to them, piled in a cardboard box on the floor, underneath the apples.

I picked up organic pork chops instead of the lamb, filled a reusable produce bag with bulk pistachios, grabbed a glass jar of green olives (instead of plastic, my dears), and a jar of capers. The recipe also called for fresh oregano and parsley, but seeing that those herbs were packaged in styrene and plastic, I decided to try it without.

And check this out! Westerly has a NUT BUTTER MAKER. Oh my gosh, it makes me so excited. I tried to make my own almond butter the other night at home, but I got bored with the process and didn’t want to subject Vicki to more than 15 minutes of the high-pitched food processor. So the result wasn’t awesome. So here was the solution: at the top, a whole bunch of nuts. You just press down the lever and out the bottom comes nut butter. I can’t wait to come back with an empty jar and fill it up with this stuff. (Little things get me excited, yall.)

I wasn’t even finished. I rounded a corner and saw a shelf of sun tan lotions. I’ve been meaning to get new sunscreen, since apparently skin cancer is on the rise partly because of tanning bed, and partly because sunscreen itself can give you cancer. Oh, but life has a sense of irony.

I whipped out my Good Guide iPhone app and started scanning. Nature’s Gate got a 1 for health out of 10. Really??? That’s worse than conventional make up and shampoo. I mean, this is supposed to be organic stuff! I picked up another “organic” brand and it also got a 1. I scanned another – Kiss My Face – and this one got a 3. At this point I was bored with the process, and figured, what the heck, a 3 is better than a 1. I tossed it in my basket.

(If you want to do better than I, check out Good Guide’s online guide to sunscreens. Hint: Coppertone sucks.)

Finally, I tossed some Burt’s Bees Radiance Day spf 15 in my basket (Good Guide score of 6.8 overall, 5 for health) and paid for my items. I was so freakin pleased with myself, what a green shopper I was!

In summary, for a great green shopping experience:

1. Use your iPhone’s helpful apps for identifying healthy and genuine products. The iPhone also has some fun price comparison apps.

2. Go organic, free range, cage free, and hormone free.

3. Come prepared with produce bags and reusable shopping bags. I keep my reusable Lululemon fold-up bag in my purse at all times, with a produce bag tucked in the outside pocket.

4. Avoid plastic packaging where possible. Embrace the shabby chic aesthetic of jars on your shelves.

5. Read the ingredient label. A long list of scientific gibberish is NOT a good sign. Also, avoid high fructose corn syrup like the plague. In fact, if the food does not come with an ingredient list at all(“peanuts.” “grapes.” “wild rice.”) that’s the best. (Trust me, this is good for your long-term health AND your waistline.)

6. Unless you are in a lovely health foods store, stick to the edges of the grocery store like it’s the shopping district and and the center is a dangerous food ghetto. That’s where they stick on the deceptively delicious and highly-processed crap that you are better without.

7. If you don’t see a healthy and conscious brand, ask for it. They might take a hint and start carrying Burt’s Bees and Method like so many conventional convenience and grocery stores.

Anyway, I am happy to report that my pistachio tapenade pork chops turned out beautifully, even without fresh parsley, and Vicki scarfed hers down even with the strep throat. Really, if you have any brains you’ll try this simple recipe. Unless you are like Vicki, who apparently is afraid of anything involving heat. In that case, pass the recipe along to your roommate and have her cook it for you.

 

Free NYC Screenings of Earth-y Movies July 16, 2010

This summer the PRdream Summer Film Fest presents “Earth 101”, a primer on global warming, fossil fuels, industrial farming, genetically modified food, and water.  According to Judith Escalona, Director of PRdream.com:  “We’ve always had an environment and health component to the screenings, but this year we decided to devote the entire festival to it—given the Gulf Coast Disaster.”

EARTH 101: What You Don’t Know Will Kill You! opens Thursday, July 22, 8:00 PM with music from latin group Grupo Coco Rico.

The documentary screenings are free and take place every Thursday night at sunset, approximately 8:30pm, at the 103rd Street Community Garden, between Park and Lexington Avenues.

This year’s exclusive focus on environmental documentaries coincides with a new exhibition at MediaNoche, PRdream’s digital art gallery. MediaNoche is located on the corner of 102nd Street and Park Avenue, just one block south of the community garden where the films will screen.  The exhibition “SPILL>>Forward” is scheduled to open July 29 at 6pm.  As the title suggests, the works displayed are a response to the Gulf Coast oil disaster.  SPILL>>Forward is a collaboration between MediaNoche and Transnational Temps, an international new media arts collective devoted to increasing awareness about the environment.

Opening the PRdream Summer Film Fest is Grupo Coco Rico, featuring Joe Falcon on bass, Luis Rodriguez on guitar, and sonero mayor Ismael Rosado.  The trio will play traditional Puerto Rican music and Latin Jazz before the first film screens on Thursday, July 22.   Not to be missed!  Music begins at 8:00PM.

Thursday, July 22  An Inconvenient Truth – Redux

Thursday, July 29  A Crude Awakening:  The Oil Crash

Thursday, August 5  Crude

Thursday, August 12  Food Inc.

Thursday, August 19  The World According to Monsanto

Thursday, August 26  Flow

An Inconvenient Truth, directed by Davis Guggenheim

Redux.  PRdream brings back the sobering classic on climate change.  Former Vice-President Al Gore explains the present and future effects of global warming.  “Each one of us is a cause of global warming, but each one of us can make choices to change that with the things we buy, the electricity we use, the cars we drive.”

Crude Awakening:  The Oil Crash, directed by Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack

What happens when the earth runs out of oil? This is your wake up call.  At a time of unprecedented and ever-growing demand, the available oil worldwide is fast approaching peaked oil depletion.

Crude, directed by Joe Berlinger

It’s déjà vu all over again! Instead of British Petroleum, its Chevron; and instead of our Gulf Coast, it’s the Amazon rain forest in Ecuador, South America.  The film follows the crusade of an Ecuadorian lawsuit against Chevron for 2 of its 14 years!  We see the tragic pollution of a once pristine rainforest and the devastation of the people who inhabit it.

Food Inc., directed by Robert Kenner

And you thought Aunt Em and Uncle Henry were still running the farm!  Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers, and our own environment. The highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer is exposed.

The World According to Monsanto, directed by Marie-Monique Robin

From Iowa to Paraguay, from England to India, Monsanto is uprooting our food supply and replacing it with their patented genetically engineered seeds. Along the way, farmers, communities, and nature become collateral damage.

Flow, directed by Irena Salina

The most important political and environmental issue of the 21st Century — the World Water Crisis.  Here is the case against the growing privatization of the world’s dwindling fresh water.  Politics, pollution, human rights, and the emergence of a domineering international water cartel that wants to control our water supply–and our future as a species.

This program is made possible with the support of the New York State Council on the Arts, Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and individual donors.  Special thanks:  Hugh Mandeville, Todd Escalona, Eric Wold, Tanya Torres, Juan Nunez, Taina Caragol, Joe Falcon,Yolanda Sanchez and other superlative individuals.

Earth 101 is a departure from PRdream’s usual summer film program of Puerto Rican/Latino films and other international independent cinemas.  These films are scheduled for late Fall.

 

Enter to Win Free Eco-Friendly Stuff! July 13, 2010

Living Echo is having contest. Just register at their website and you’re entered to win natural candles, chocolate, seed bombs, shea butter, or lip balm.

Living Echo is a website that allows you not only to shop for earth-friendly stuff, you can also rate companies, peruse articles on living greenly, and watch and post videos. It’s on my good list. 🙂

 

Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie ECO Bikini July 6, 2010

Filed under: Green fashion,sustainability — Alden @ 7:15 pm

Every green girl knows that not-shopping is the most eco-friendly action of all. So luckily this year I find myself with plenty of old stand-byes to get me through the hot summer (102 degrees today in NYC!). But if you aren’t so lucky and the butt on your bikini is pilling from too many waterslides, check out these eco-friendly swimsuits from Huffpo. I like the polka dot one the best, but HuffPo readers gravitated to the surfer chic bikini.

(Thanks Jonathan!)