Explore San Francisco Bay Area’s hot spots for organic and sustainable living

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Chez Panisse 40th Celebration Events – August 26-30

The venerable restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley turns 40 years old in August. Their founder, Alice Waters, started the famous Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley which became a nationwide model for educating children the importance of food. According to their site:

This fall, the Chez Panisse Foundation will become
The Edible Schoolyard organization.
Together we will build a national curriculum for
Edible Education in the school system.

Pretty cool! They’ve got a lot of great events: speakers, fairs, and of course, food! The free event on  on 8/27 at the UC Berkeley Art museum looks like fun for all ages. Check out their website for more information.

July 21, 2011   No Comments

Where can I find the best organic produce in the East Bay?

After living in the East Bay for several months, I started to discover some nice places to shop for organic produce. Here are some spots I visited:

Berkeley Bowl/Berkeley Bowl West

  • Pros: This place is like a produce mecca for anyone obsessed with fresh fruits and vegetables. Tons of varieties. Organic produce prices on many core items (e.g. apples, broccoli, onions) are very good. Berkeley Bowl West has its own separate organic section which is nice, but the original Berkeley Bowl seems to have more varieties than the Berkeley Bowl West. Parking is easier in Berkeley Bowl West.
  • Cons: Mad shoppers hitting their carts throughout aisles, grabbing the best produce possible. Be prepared to have a heart attack while parking your car or pushing your shopping cart.

Monterey Market

  • Pros: This place has really amazing produce. I think the quality is even better than Berkeley Bowl. It doesn’t offer as much variety as Berkeley Bowl does, but it still is pretty amazing given its size. The prices are really good, and produce is SUPER fresh.
  • Cons: Again, like Berkeley Bowl, prepare for a mad stampede of food – obsessed shoppers with their carts everywhere. It is not a fancy store; don’t expect it to look like Whole Foods (this is not necessarily a con, but I know people who are turned off by Rainbow Grocery for this reason).

Berkeley Farmer’s Market

  • Pros: (I’ve been to both the Thu and Sat markets) This place has superb quality, all organic and lots of turnover. Downtown on Saturdays, there’s some hot food which is convenient for a quick bite or lunch. On Thursdays on Shattuck and Rose, there is less variety of hot food but I love the organic hot food vendor, Today’s Special! It is really an excellent find.
  • Cons: It does get a little crowded, and sometimes by the end of the day, the food quality gets low due to heat or just staying out so long. Otherwise it’s a good market.

Temescal Farmer’s Market

  • Pros: This is an amazing find in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood which is becoming really up and coming. The quality of these vendors are A+ with people like Cowgirl Creamery and Prather Ranch (which are truly hard to find as market vendors).
  • Cons: Wow, this place is expensive. After being used to Monterey Market and Berkeley Bowl prices, it’s hard to recalibrate what I expect to see in food prices. $8 for 3 sausages that aren’t even organic or nitrate free? No thanks. But to be fair, every produce item we bought that day (kale, carrots, broccoli, bell pepper and spinach) was really probably some of the most amazing produce we have tasted in a long time.

There is probably a lot more fabulous organic produce out there – but these are some great places to check out if you are in the area!

July 20, 2011   No Comments

SunRun: an affordable way to get solar power for your home

Solar power is a no brainer in many ways – and SunRun, a fast growing, socially concious company based in San Francisco, has a great way to afford solar power for your home. If you own a home, you just pay monthly for power which adds up to savings from the energy bill.  Check out some reasons to go solar in this nifty visual:

December 9, 2010   2 Comments

Amanda’s Feel Good Fresh Food – a great spot in Berkeley

Last week, I stopped by in Berkeley to check out a restaurant called Amanda’s Feel Good Fresh Food. Started by a passion entrepreneur, Amanda West,  her restaurant is a bright, energetic fast food joint serving healthy  food at great prices. Her food includes natural meats, local and organic food where possible, with all items compostable. My favorite items were the homemade sodas (try the ginger ale!), yam fries and the organic Napa salad. Since I am vegetarian, (I had the homemade veggie burger) I didn’t try the meat burgers, but my friend Barak loved the special California burger (a chicken burger with avocado). Most items were $7 or under.  Check out this restaurant! It’s located right next to the  downtown Berkeley BART station near the corner of Center and Shattuck (2122 Shattuck Avenue,Berkeley).

October 12, 2010   No Comments

Looking for good deals on green products and services? Blissmo.

In this economy, who wants to spend full price? I had a reader comment on my blog asking for green discounts. Here’s one – for the green shopper, there’s a great service called blissmo. It’s like Groupon meets green with a social mission. These guys are the real deal, looking for certified products and services, starting in San Francisco with already thousands of subscribers – not bad, considering they just launched a month ago.

This week check out a deal from Looptworks – a cool clothing company that actually REUSES existing materials into hip and trendy hoodies, shirts and more. Get 40% off on Looptworks clothes. Hurry – it expires end of this week!

September 28, 2010   2 Comments

Toxins in my veggie burger? No thanks.

As a vegetarian for over 20 years, I’m appalled to learn that vegetarian soy products and veggie burgers have been disguised as “natural” when in fact they are laced with a toxin called hexane according to a recent Cornucopia report.

What is hexane? It is a neurotoxin,  listed as a “hazardous air pollutant” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This report is full of disturbing information, including the lack of oversight by the FDA and EPA in these foods products.The long term effects of hexane have not yet been documented. According to the Cornucopia report, in conventional food processing, soybeans are immersed in what the industry calls a “hexane bath” before they are further processed into ingredients such as oil, soy protein isolate, or texturized soy protein (TVP). The soy protein ingredients in most nonorganic foods such as vegetarian burgers and nutrition bars are processed with the use of hexane. It is not used in organic food processing.

How do you know which products are hexane free? In general, organic tofu products do not have hexane. However, there are a few exceptions of organic soy products that do have hexane. Here is a comprehensive scorecard, and a short summary of conventional veggie burgers and soy meat like products:

Avoid these hexane-laced veggie burgers and soy products:

  • Amy’s Kitchen
  • Boca Burger, conventional
  • Franklin Farms
  • Garden Burger
  • It’s All Good Lightlife
  • Morningstar Farms
  • President’s Choice
  • Taste Above
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Yves Veggie Cuisine

Products that are hexane-free:

  • Boca Burgers “Made with organic soy”
  • Helen’s Kitchen
  • Morningstar “Made with organic”
  • Superburgers by Turtle Island
  • Tofurky
  • Wildwood

In a future blog post, we’ll evaluate energy bars and infant formula (unfortunately, infant food has hexane too). Ironically, the way I found out about this hexane problem was researching the best organic infant formula for my baby. Stay tuned.

April 21, 2010   2 Comments

Free Green Products Giveaway from Martha Stewart

Dear readers–Martha Stewart is offering a free giveaway on their new line of green household cleaners. To win, please email me christine<at>myorganicday.com on what you do to green your own lifestyle or home. The most creative answer will win the entire suite of cleaners from Martha Stewart. For other clean tips, check out Martha Stewart’s magazine, Body+Soul

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 Update: Winner has been announced. Thank you for participating.

March 1, 2010   5 Comments

Ten ways to save money and buy organic and local to start the new year

 

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  1. Shop at your local farmer’s market. If you wait towards the end of the market, many farmers are willing to sell at lower rates to get rid of inventory.
  2. Join a local CSA in your area for a weekly produce box, fresh from a local farm. Some of these items are much cheaper than at Whole Foods. Some examples of CSAs are FarmFreshToYou and others found on Om Organics’ website in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  3. Find private label organic food items. At Safeway, they now sell their own organic food line O Organics. At Whole Foods, they have their 365 everyday value items. These items tend to have reasonable food prices.
  4. Shop at your local co-op. My personal favorite is Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco. It is like the Costco of Whole Foods. Not necessarily the prettiest place to shop, but full of choices, bulk and great prices.
  5. Buy bulk items. Don’t bother buying core items like rice and oatmeal from small boxes. At places like Whole Foods, and co-ops like Rainbow Grocery, it is easy to find wide varieties of healthy grains, nuts, dried fruits and other goodies in the bulk aisle. One of my favorite items is the almond butter, fresh and bulk.
  6. My personal favorite store for value-Trader Joe’s. Sure their produce quality is not the best, but many of their packaged items are great prices.
  7. Use food delivery services like Planet Organics in the San Francisco Bay Area. They deliver straight to your home once a week, and you can choose any items you want, unlike a CSA. I’ve been using them for a month, and really enjoy the quality of their produce.
  8. Grow your own vegetables and fruits in your patio or yard. Tomatoes are especially a good thing to grow as they tend to be more expensive than other produce.
  9. Find coupons for organic and local food. Whole Foods has a coupon flyer in their stores that has many discounts on natural food items. There are local guides such as Green Zebra and EcoMetro Guide that have dozens of discounts for organic and local items.
  10. Avoid chains and try shopping at local markets. My favorite local market is Sigona’s in Redwood City for produce. Their produce prices are some of the best in the area given the quality of their organic and local sourcing. Another example is the Milk Pail in Mountain View.

January 21, 2010   3 Comments

Food carts are all the rage – check out this weekend’s Eat Real Festival in Oakland

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What an excellent idea! A festival benefiting local food co-ops and farmers in the Bay Area serving great, local food. I see some of the best restaurants, beer and ice cream vendors all on carts.

This event has even been highlighted in the New York Times!

Highlighting some great gastronomic pleasures:

Located at Jack London Square in Oakland this weekend 8/28-8/30. See their comprehensive schedule.

August 28, 2009   No Comments

Save California State Parks! Governor threatens to shut down 200 parks

Sonoma Coast State Beach

Can you imagine the Bay Area without Mount Tam, Half Moon Bay Beach, and Henry Coe? Well that’s what the Governor announced – a new proposal to eliminate state funding for our state park system – which will close more than 80% of the 279-unit state park system.  His proposal to cut $143 million from our state parks is 10 times worse than last year’s proposal.

What can you do?

1. Sign the petition from the California State Parks Foundation

2. Donate to the California State Parks Foundation, the only non profit dedicated to advocating for the California State park system.

3. Learn more about the issues and the California state budget.

4. Spread the word!

June 9, 2009   1 Comment

Food Inc movie debuts June 12th

Food Inc

I was fortunate to see a sneak preview of Food Inc a couple weeks ago at a special Yelp event in San Francisco. After the viewing, there was a Q&A session live with Michael Pollan and Robert Kenner. I was so excited to see the movie and listen to the panel. Here are some reactions from Yelp Elites.

In a nutshell, you will feel inspired to be careful what you buy and eat. I became vegetarian almost 20 years ago after watching a movie like Food Inc after watching the meat processing scenes. Those with quesy stomachs may want to not watch, but those with a foodie and green interest will want to see this film.

Famous foodies Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) are featured along with forward thinking social
entrepreneurs like Stonyfield Farms’ Gary Hirschberg and Polyface Farms’ Joe Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising — and often shocking truths — about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

Here’s an interesting fact among many found in the film (and in Omnivore’s Dilemma if you’ve read the book)–Corn products include: ketchup, cheese, Twinkies, batteries, peanut butter, Cheez-Its, salad dressings, Coke, jelly, Sweet & Low, syrup, juice, Kool-Aid, charcoal, diapers, Motrin, meat and fast food.

Hmm, you’ve gotta wonder what’s in your food sometimes before you eat it. Many thumbs up for this movie!

June 8, 2009   No Comments

Celebrate Earth Day in the San Francisco Bay Area

Celebrate Earth Day! Here are some interesting events:

San Francisco:

  • Green Apple Festival. Volunteer activities take place at parks, beaches, schools and forests that focus on tree-planting, energy efficiency retrofits, water protection, urban gardens and forest restoration today through Sunday. For volunteering efforts, times a
  • Earth Stroll at Crissy Field. Take an interactive fitness walk, play eco-games, visit with live animals and learn how to create a healthier planet. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Crissy Field, near Mason Street off Highway 101. 415-561-7690.
  • “Party for the Planet” at the San Francisco Zoo. Green-themed activities, puppet show and scavenger hunt. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Great Highway and Sloat Boulevard. Call 415-753-7080 or go to www.sfzoo. org/registration/calendardetail. asp?orgkey=1431&ActivityKey= 539272.nd location information, please visit www.greenapplefestival.com.

Peninsula:

  • Earth Day at Coyote Point Museum, San Mateo. Eco-art, nature walks and talks, interaction with the museum’s nonreleasable animals and special cleanup events. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. 1651 Coyote Point Drive. 650-342-7755, www.coyoteptmuseum.org/activities/family-events/earth-day.
  • Portola Valley’s Earth Day Fair. The event will include water conservation tips, composting demonstration techniques and recycling games for kids. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. Town Center Community Hall, 765 Portola Road. 650-851-1700.
  • Belmont Earth Day Festival. Tree-planting, discussions and entertainment. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. April 25. Barrett Community Center, 1870 Ralston Ave. 650-595-7441 or www.belmont.gov/earthday

South Bay:

  • Weed the Wetlands at San Francisquito Creek, Palo Alto. Remove non-native and invasive species. 9 a.m.-noon Saturday. For more information, contact 510-452-9261, extension 119, sanfrancisco.about.com/ od/aprilevents/tp/earthdaysf. htm.
  • Earth Day Eco-Friendly Workshop. Children and parents are invited to participate in this event. 1-8 p.m. Monday. Sunnyvale Public Library, 665 W. Olive Ave. 408-730-7262.
  • Earth Day at San Jose State University. Aztec Dancers, an electric bicycle company giving test rides nearby and games supplied by the Environmental Club. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday. El Paseo de Cesar Chavez. 408-924-5467.
  • “Your Home, Your Community, Your Environment: A Community Conversation on Climate Change.” 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday. City Council Chambers, 456 W. Olive Ave., Sunnyvale. 408-730-7262.
  • Greening Your Life. A panel of experts discusses easy ways to be green at home. 7-8 p.m. Thursday. Sunnyvale Community Center, 550 E. Remington Drive. 408-730-7262.

East Bay

  • Earth Day Weeding Project. Help remove non-native vegetation like Russian thistle and ice plant to ensure endangered birds and fish can thrive. 9 a.m.-noon Saturday. Eden Landing Ecological Reserve, off Highway 92 near Eden Landing Road, Hayward. For information, call 510-452-9261, extension 119 or go to www.savesfbay.org. and click on East Bay in the bottom left corner of page.
  • Earth Day at the Oakland Zoo. More than 40 earth stations, hands-on learning, crafts, face-painting and Wildlife Theater presentations. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. 9777 Golf Links Road. 510-632-9525.

April 17, 2009   1 Comment

Organic fruit and vegetable centerpiece

Centerpiece

Want to create a unique, green and inexpensive centerpiece? This is what I used for my wedding. The fruits came from local organic farms within 100 miles of the San Francisco Bay Area. The centerpiece was created by Flowers By Desiree, who is very easy to work with and did not charge me a ton like other estimates I was getting. She also made other flowers that were locally sourced for my bouquet and accessories.

April 16, 2009   4 Comments

Planning a green wedding? Hire Vibrant Events

Corina Beczner

Last year, during this time, I realized I couldn’t handle the day to day tasks of a wedding while at work. So I made the wise choice of hiring a wedding planner. I looked for a green, environmental wedding planner, and I was able to find one!

I worked with Corina Beczner of Vibrant Events. I liked her style, her background in sustainability, and her ideas. She worked with me for several months before the big day in Half Moon Bay to concoct a green wedding. My wedding had so many green elements in it that it has been filmed by Bloomberg, along with other green wedding vendors like Brilliant Earth. More photos and ideas from my wedding to come!

February 21, 2009   2 Comments

Google’s Chef opens an organic, local cafe in Palo Alto: Calafia Cafe and Market

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Calafia Cafe and Market recently opened in Palo Alto’s Town & Country center. I was able to eat there on Sunday night, where the tables were actually all full and busy. The ambiance had a nice zen feel with thought through details of design using green materials. The waitstaff was amazing and very attentive (perhaps because we had an adorable newborn baby dining with us). Charlie Ayers, the head chef, was the executive chef for Google for many years.

 

For vegetarians, I thought the food was excellent. I had their special “hearts” salad, made of hearts of palm, beets (get it? heartbeat), and greens. My main course was a tofu lentil loaf with mashed potatoes and fresh herbs, with swiss chard. My friends shared a pizza, and a turkey burger with fresh cut fries made from scratch.

 

I would totally recommend this place; this is the kind of restaurant we need more of –fast, easy, healthy and organic. Charlie Ayers, their head chef definitely understands the need after cooking at Google for many years.

February 18, 2009   No Comments