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Sustainable Food

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Swedish fast food chain makes bank by becoming ‘Klimatsmart!’

Sweden's No. 1 burger chain got rid of its kids'-meal boxes and, contrary to expectations, sales of the meals rose. Apparently parents who are facing the prospect of their children scrabbling for survival on this wrecked cinder of a planet don’t like creating needless trash? At least in Sweden, anyway.

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Is your favorite restaurant faking organic? There’s only one way to know for sure

How often do you find yourself in a restaurant with a menu that reads, “We serve organic produce when possible”? And how much stock should you put into vague phrases like, “All our ingredients are sustainable”?

You'd be right to be suspicious: Some chefs are faking it as the demand for organic rises. And many savvy eaters can sniff out the real deal. (Does the chef name-check source farms on the menu? Can they be seen making pickups at the local farmers market?) Still, none of these guessing games really guarantee the origin of every ingredient. And in truth, unless the restaurant in question is certified organic, there is no real way to know.

As a chef who's committed to organics (I grew up on a certified organic farm), and as a customer myself, I've been frustrated by the greenwashing I've observed. There are literally thousands of restaurants around the country using the word “organic” in their name and/or marketing materials -- and indeed, most probably do source at least some organic foods. But just how much, or how often, is unknown to everyone outside their kitchens.

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Glean unto others: Ending hunger with foraged foods

This post originally appeared on Shareable.

A Portland Fruit Tree Project harvesting party. (Photo by Sarah Gilbert.)

Foraging for food — whether it's ferreting rare mushrooms in the woods, picking abundant lemons from an overlooked tree, or gathering berries from an abandoned lot — is all the rage among the culinary crowd and the DIY set, who share their finds with fellow food lovers in fancy restaurant meals or humble home suppers.

But an old-fashioned concept — gleaning for the greater good by harvesting unwanted or leftover produce from farms or family gardens — is also making a comeback during these continued lean economic times.

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For New Yorkers, a farmers market on your phone

The Plovgh interface.

A community-supported agriculture (CSA) share can be a culinary battle royale. Every other week, it's you versus a mystery box. No tap outs, no substitutions. Just a bitter melon so fresh, you wouldn't dare toss it out. And while there's something to be said for experimentation, sometimes you just want something a little more familiar, something easy to pack for lunch, something the kids will touch. Or maybe you're just having a mad craving for heirloom radishes?

That’s where Plovgh enters the picture. The online marketplace soft-launched in November 2011, and hopes to offer an alternative to the traditional CSA and farmers market systems by allowing customers to order exactly what and how much they want from local farms while still getting it delivered to their neighborhood. Sites like Local Dirt and Local Harvest connect online customers to farms, but neither will bring groceries to your neighborhood bar. And while food hubs can distribute food to schools, restaurants, and other groups with big local food needs, Plovgh (pronounced "plow") brings all those perks to individuals -- even those who might only cook once a week.

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Put your money where your mouth is: Funding food with Kickstarter

A still from Dafna Kory's Kickstarter video, in which she explains the origins of her jam company's name. (Click to watch.)

Edible entrepreneur/video editor Dafna Kory is an ideal candidate for a food-focused Kickstarter campaign. Kory, founder of Inna Jam, an organic artisan preserves company in Berkeley, Calif., supplements her budding food business with commercial film, video, and web editing gigs and is well-acquainted with the crowd-funding platform. So, when it came time to expand her jam company this winter, she decided to give Kickstarter a whirl.

"It's a very public thing -- putting yourself out there like this -- and it could have gone either way," says Kory, who produced her own video for a campaign to renovate a commercial kitchen. The jammer already has some small business loans and didn't want to take on any more debt. Kory, who just wrapped up her Kickstarter campaign, says it was by no means an easy endeavor. "I used every skill I have to make this campaign a success."

Kickstarter, based in New York, earned its early reputation as the go-to place for up-and-coming filmmakers, gamers, and designers looking for funds. Increasingly, though, it's become a hub for those involved in the sustainable, local food scene seeking capital for their creative pursuits as well. In the Kickstarter worldview, food artisans are artists too, whether they're behind a community olive oil press in Berkeley, a beekeeping business in Brooklyn, or a Lebanese food truck in Asheville, N.C.

Read more: Food, Sustainable Food

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McDonald’s ditches Styrofoam … maybe

McDonald’s may be getting a little less evil … maybe … I guess … if consumers really, really want it to. The fast food behemoth recently announced plans to swap out Styrofoam cups for paper ones at 2,000 of its stores. If customers respond well to drinking their bargain coffee out of greener vessels, the Golden Arches will start using paper cups at all of its 13,000+ restaurants.

In the stores where the paper cups are being used, customers who order a hot beverage will now get it in a double-walled fiber hot cup. McDonald’s will be looking at “consumer acceptance, operation impact, and overall importance.”

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Farmers to use spider venom to protect crops

Farmers and bugs typically have a hate-hate relationship. Insects eat up valuable wheat, barley, and soybeans, and farmers slay them dead using an arsenal of chemical weapons (a.k.a. pesticides). But no longer. Australian growers may soon form an alliance with their new best buggy friends: spiders.

Researchers at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience found that tarantula, orb spider, and funnel web spider venom actually makes a super-effective, all-natural pesticide. Not only that, but scientists envision using the earth-friendly spider venom to control agricultural pests and wipe out disease vectors like mosquitoes.

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Pig ears and donkey butts: 5 foods that could save the world

Photo by Laura Billings.

Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, eats some pretty strange dishes. Now, he wants you to do the same in the name of saving the world:

You can change the world one plate at a time. If we can take better advantage of the global pantry and eat from a wider variety of choices we would do more to combat food poverty, our damaged food production system, obesity and other systemic health and wellness issues than any one single act I can imagine. Here are some suggestions, but be creative. It works.

Here are the five foods he suggests we all start stuffing our faces with:

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Anheuser-Busch turns beer leftovers into usable products

Now you can feel good after knocking back a few brewskis -- and not just because you’re tipsy. Beermaker Anheuser-Busch has found a way to turn its waste grain into an array of products, from clothes to cosmetics to biogas.

The beer behemoth has partnered with a company called Blue Marble Bio, which plans to set up large-scale biorefineries at Anheuser-Busch breweries that will use naturally occurring bacteria to break down spent grains using proprietary “polyculture fermentation technology.” That process will create both biogas, which can be used to generate electricity, and chemical compounds called carboxylic acids that are used to make everything from nylon to soap to food additives to floor polish.

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Delicious, edible food packaging could curb plastic waste

If you want to know why the earth and waterways are quickly morphing into giant garbage heaps, look no further than your pudding cup. Desserts, sodas, yogurts, and every other processed treat that comes tucked inside a plastic container are creating a slew of plastic pollution. But Harvard scientist David Edwards has an innovative -- and tasty! -- solution: Make packaging as delicious as the goods held inside.