Sustainability: San Francisco (USA)

gardens at Quivera Winery

gardens at Quivera Winery

People who know me, know that sustainability is a subject close to my heart.  Starting this blog and getting to know bloggers around the world made me curious to see if we were all approaching sustainability the same way, or if there are some new practices that we might share.  I an not sure we can talk about culture and food without considering sustainability, I hope never to see a day that I cannot replicate a recipe from a different culture – not because my local market does not carry the necessary ingredients, but because that ingredient is extinct.  Understanding what is involved in the life cycle of  the food system is eye opening, and goes a long way to explaining why cultures adapt certain food in the manner they do.   Every day I meet people passionate who balance great food and preserving the environment.  I had the pleasure of meeting Will Allen last year for a summit on sustainable agriculture I helped put on, and I have to say there is a reason he is in the New York Times and various other periodicals, he is just inspiring, and what he is doing for the community of Milwaukee with his urban farm, Growing Power is just impressive.

I asked a few other bloggers in different parts of the world to guest post on what’s happening in their area and to see if any trends or new ideas pop up that might be useful, so expect future sustainability posts.  I would love to collect ideas from all over, so please, if you have something to share, let me know in the comment section, and even better if you’d like to post, I’d love to add your post to this series. To kick it off, I thought a run down of some of the practices I found in San Francisco would be in order.

New Beginnings

California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences

Graze the Roof Project at Glide Memorial Church is a roof top garden providing produce to the under privileged living in San Francisco.  The food goes to the volunteers and children who work one day a week in the center and learn to cook what they grow.

At the California Academy of Sciences we now have the greenest museum on earth with one of the most unique exteriors I’ve seen, with its living roof.  Here’s a link to information on its sustainable design.  The restaurants in the building are run by two locally reknowned chefs – Charles Phan (Slanted Door) and Loretta Keller (COCO500), and they have proved a very popular attraction for the museum.

Not Business As Usual

wine corks recycled

wine corks recycled

In San Franciso, we will have the toughest composting laws in the country.  In a few months, the city is requiring that all composting be separated from the recycling or trash, otherwise the sanitary workers are authorized to issue tickets of $100 for offenders.

At the Ferry Building, aside for the now standard, bins separating compost, recycling and trash, is this new bin that collects wine bottle corks for recycling.  The organization is ReCork America.

Any more when I attend meetings the water provided is not in individual plastic water bottles but glass pictures or bottles filled with filtered water. Disposable dishes and silverware are compostable made of potato starch or comparable material.

CSA (consumer sustainable agriculture) and Farmers Markets

For those of you not familiar with CSAs it is a produce delivery service that you sign up for with an area farm on a set schedule, typically weekly.  The farm delivers boxes of produce in strategic locations around the city.  We belong to a CSA and our pickup is less than a block away at the local elementary school.  We pick up our box of seasonal produce and carry our bounty home.  With this CSA, you never know what you are going to get so it keeps you on your toes when trying to develop meals for the upcoming weeks.  Not all CSAs are the same, some add cheeses from local dairies or sustainable raised meat and fish.  Some also have a menu selection that allows you to pick your vegetables so you do not get backed up on carrots.

Here’s a few resources for you:

Om Organics – find a CSA near you in California

Local Harvest – find a CSA anywhere in the United States

IS Farmers Market

IS Farmers Market

The number of farmers markets in San Francisco has increased, two were added in the last few months – The Inner Sunset, and Island Earth located inside the Metreon.  Both are great additions.  Since I spend a lot of time in the Inner Sunset, I love the increased sense of community the market brought; little kids earning change “baby sitting” the dogs while their masters stroll the market, community singers entertaining the shoppers, and passionate discussions on merits of different varieties of peaches.

Urban Farms

Recently, the mayor of San Francisco proposed that the city grow its own crops in window boxes, street medians and vacant lots.  The details are still sketchy, and some practical and logistical issues need resolving, but heck, if you don’t start brainstorming good ideas might never take off.

Alemany Farms is a cooperative established to improve conditions in a public housing project and encourages community by “providing organic food and green jobs for a low-income community while sowing the seeds for economic and environmental justice”.

My Farm is a decentralized urban farm that grows vegetables in backyards around the city.  They use under-used space in people’s yards around the city, in return for its use they offer discounts on their produce for the use of the land.  The produce becomes part of a CSA delivery system that is provided weekly.  They also make it a closed system composting on site.  I met their founder at a urban agriculture summit I helped put on last year and really liked the idea of the company.  There are many different models around, but selected My Farm based on my previous contact.

Dining Out

Tataki, America’s first sustainable sushi restaurant opened in San Francisco, others are in the works, including one in Seattle.

More menus are listing locally sourced food on their menus to lure environmentally conscious consumers.  Actually thats not fair to say, people realize that probably the best tasting produce is locally grown so they are on the prowl for the best meal.

I’ve seen more people bringing their Tupperware with them to take the leftovers in, so as not to use the plastic containers supplied by the restaurants.  I’d like to say I am one of those people, but I do not have that foresight – yet!

The city’s restaurants are participating in a joint commercial composting program designed to reduce the amount of compostable materials into landfills. Several businesses in the City also breakout compost in addition to distinguishing between recycling and trash.

Eating Locally

Cow Shares – when a group collectively buys a cow from a local butcher  and divides up the meat rather than buying from a grocery store chain, in the attempt to reduce the carbon foot print and gain knowledge of where the meat is coming from.  This idea is not new, at least not to farmers and those that live in rural communities.  My uncles, both farmers, pitched in with neighbors to purchase and butcher a cow as it was more meat than any one family could consume – it reduced cost and waste.

Preserving foods though as canning, and making jams and jellys has taken off, as have the classes that teach these techniques.  My local hardware store has a hard time keeping Mason jars in stock.

Farm Eating

HGF dining room

HGF dining room

A Moveable Feast:  Every month two top area chefs create a multi-course dinner that highlights both their individual talent while showcasing the offerings of a featured farmer.  These dinners are to benefit CUESA.

Events such as Farm to Table of Ground to Glass are becoming increasingly popular as people want to feel like they are getting back to nature and understanding better the connection with their foods.  Even Harley Farms Dairy, which I had mentioned in previous posts has a dining room they use for events or dinners they host,

Underground Eating

Cook Here and Now – is a “underground” dining party started by an Italian foodie from Rome where the food is local and seasonal, and the guests share a passion for good food and companionship.

Many of these places started in response to restrictions on ingredients such as raw cheeses or unpasteurized milk, and the desire to sample the best and freshest bounty available, and to share these experiences with like minded individuals.

Here’s a list of underground dining establishments around the world.

Useful resources – not SF exclusive

NYC Related

Window Farm

Lower East Side Ecology Center

SF Related

CUESA – Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture – offers classes and the farmers market at the Ferry Building.


Urban Farm Resources

On the side of this page are several links for sustainable sites that are worth checking out.

The summary is my perspective of the happenings in the Bay Area – no its narrower than that, its what I know of that is happening in the Bay Area, as I can only ingamine what else might be going on.  I am going to try to keep this topic food focused, and apologize in advance if I digress, as this is a topic I am deeply interested about and my background touches on more far reaching aspects of sustainability beyond food.

People are eating less meat, and when they do eat it they are more concerned about quality.  I am not sure if there is any one factor involved in this trend, given the economy meat is probably one item people may be trimming from their diet, vegetarianism has gone main stream, and with the abundance of TV and internet sites offering recipes it is very easy to find options, and given all the food safety issues of late people are looking for alternatives, in addition to eating food with a small carbon footprint.

Setting the Stage:

3700354938_e1671dbc69_oAs I was writing this post it occurred to me that I am always curious about who is on the other side of that post, and thought maybe you felt the same,  So here’s a bit about me, and it dovetailed nicely with the requirements of a recent award I received from Ruth of I Love Flavor Me,  Thank you so much, Ruth for the recognition.

The rules are as follows:

  1. Thank the person who has given you the award
  2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog
  3. Link to the person who has nominated you for the award
  4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting
  5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers
  6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate
  7. Leave a comment on which of the blogs to let them know they have been nominated

Facts about me:


yours truly - looking a bit pink

  1. I’ve been interested in food and cooking for as long as I can remember, when I was nine I started borrowing Bon Appetite from my neighbor and subjected my family to “gourmet” cooking.  One such dish made with gorgonzola ended up buried in the garden when neither the family or the dog could tolerate the smell.  Apparently it was not too popular with the earthworms either, as it looked suspiciously fresh come spring when we turned over the top layer of soil in preparation for planting.  I think that was our family’s first experience with anything other than cheddar cheese, and we got off to a rocky start.
  2. I have a BS civil engineering, minored in economics, finished with an MBA in International Business.  For those of you that think this might be the reason I really delve into the details in my posts, you are probably right.  I think I was first struck at the impact we have on the environment when I was led my first civil works project out of undergrad.  We followed another contractor that had tore up the place and damaged ecologically sensitive areas and I vowed our team would never repeat those thoughtless actions.  The more involved I got, the more I realized how integrated my environmental interests were with my love for food and culture.  I volunteer with some great organizations; including serving as a mentor with Clean Tech Open which helps clean technology start-ups realize their potential, and I also serve on the Clean Technology Board of Advisors for ASTIA – a phenomenal non-profit that helps women start-ups.  What these entrepreneurs are producing is incredible, they have some really cool agriculture related products in the works!
  3. I have an unhealthy habit of collecting cook books, and food + culture related books, I am deep into the triple digits and can now only buy a book if I can give up one.  I just rarely meet a cookbook that I did not like.  Despite my fetish, I have to say that I am an intuitive cook, I generally march into the kitchen take stock of what I have to work with and then just freeflow, which is why I rarely offer any unique recipes – that would require me to measure.
  4. I am growing a management consultancy and refining a business plan on a culinary culture related company (details being tweaked). Being in San Francisco, I have met some incredible culinary and cultural experts – culinary historians and anthropologists who have generously offered their assistance, and their insights and drive are amazing.
  5. I had no idea what to expect starting this food blog, but can I say it exceeded my expectations?  I have learned so much in this process, made some good friends, that I never expected.  I started this blog as an outlet for my interests on the connections of food and culture and along the way gained so much more.  I am lucky!
  6. Aside from visiting the local food markets and stores my favorite activity when I travel is to take culinary classes, to me that acquired knowledge is the best souvenir.
  7. I have a special fondness for Terminal A at National Airport in Washington, DC.  I met my husband walking down that long hallway early one morning on my way home for Christmas holiday.  If he had not been brave enough to ask a disheveled woman (who obviously just rolled out of bed to make her flight) for a much needed cup of coffee, … well what can I say.  I’m blessed, although now I suspect he feels like a food blogger widower.
SF Farmers Market produce

SF Farmers Market produce

The following blogs I found have an interest in sustainability and food and I nominate them for the Kreativ Blogger award.

Seattle Tall Pop – I discovered this Seattle blogger through Twitter and have to say I love her style based on her Twitter action, I firmly believe that she is indeed a food networker extraordinaire.

RunnerBeans summarizes Andrea’s culinary experiences primarily in San Francisco from gardening to cooking to dining out.  A fun read with great ideas for healthy eating.

Fishes + Loaves – I just discovered this blog, out of curiosity I did a search on “sustainability” and “food” and this blog popped up.  Besides being beautifully done, it was such an inspiration to read, and so clearly shows what is not sustainable with the current system.  This blog is eye opening and humbling.

The Ladybug Letter – the musings of Andy of Marquita Farms, fun and thought provoking.

The Leather District Gourmet – Jacqueline Church combines food, cooking, dining sustainability issues, you name it – nothing escapes the eagle eye or pen, and thank goodness.

OffalGood – Chris Cosentino of Incanto restaurant writing about his work.  He is famous for his head to tail dinners, and the charcuterie that the restaurant produces.

CivilEats – a great resource on all the food sustainable issues and resources

Update me when site is updated

19 comments for “Sustainability: San Francisco (USA)

  1. July 13, 2009 at 3:53 PM

    Wow, so many changes happening in SF. But I gather it’s a good thing. I’m all about locally grown!!!

    Btw, it’s nice to get to know you a little better!!! 😉

  2. July 14, 2009 at 2:41 AM

    Hi Oysterculture,
    I still have a lot to learn about sustainability but I do support local agriculture by shopping at farmers markets (which are popping up everywhere) and at several places listed in the eat well guide.

    I also recently attended a wonderful sustainable seafood tasting/seminar held by Slow Food Vancouver and Sea Choice. I blogged about my experience, including sustainable seafood facts here:

    Since then I’ve stuck to the sustainable seafood guide and avoided any seafood that is in danger of being overfished. I think a lot more people would do the same if they knew about what was happening to our oceans.

    And I really enjoyed learning a bit more about you, how clever youto use that wine glass to obscure your face – so mysterious-o! Reminds me of the neighbor in Home Improvement :)

  3. July 14, 2009 at 6:26 AM

    Congratulations on your award!
    I really enjoyed learning more about you…..:)


  4. July 14, 2009 at 11:24 AM

    Shameless promotion for my blog: I too live in San Francisco and write a blog mostly about food –

    I also work part time at Omnivore Books on Food, a great little bookstore in Noe Valley that focuses specifically on food writing and cookbooks – we have a good selection on food politics as well, and lots of books on seasonality, local food etc. Do stop in if you haven’t already!

    I’m particularly interested as you are in the intersection between food and sustainability, and am looking forward to looking through your blog in greater depth!

  5. July 15, 2009 at 9:01 AM

    So much great information. I see all these great CSA boxes on blogs – something I definitely have to get in on in the near future. Thanks for sharing so much about yourself – being a fairly new reader it’s nice to find out more about you.

  6. July 15, 2009 at 10:51 AM

    As you already know we have many similar passions. And, I’ve learned a few new things about you in this post! We should start a support group for our food blogger widowers! P.S. Quivira is one of my favorites.

  7. admin
    July 15, 2009 at 2:08 PM

    Jenn – a lot of changes going on and hopefully they’ll all be good

    Phyllis – great post, hah – you’re right about the comparison with the neighbor – at the time hubby took the picture I was not aware I covered most of my face, still I thought it was kinda cool.

    Samantha – I’ve been to Omnivore Books and my only complaint is that the store is not closer to me – it is an absolute treasure. I’d happily spend all day there. I too skimmed your blog and need to review when I have more time, thanks for the comments

    Erin, Reeni – thanks! Reeni- the CSA box options are great everyone is different and I have never had any bad experiences with the food, its the food I remember my mom growing.

    Gasto – we do have a lot in common which is why I feel so fortunate we connected. I agree FBWA -Food Blogger Widowers Anonymous Quivera is awesome – we are a member because we want to support what they do,

  8. July 15, 2009 at 5:55 PM

    Dear Lou Ann!
    Still hiding a bit of your visage? LOL
    Impressive article!
    What would you like me to do?
    I can write an article on the situation here in Shizuoka and send it to you with a pic or two for your blog.
    Just tell me and I’ll do it!

  9. July 15, 2009 at 6:40 PM

    This is such a huge topic! Just reading through it, there are so many issues intertwined under the umbrella of ‘sustainability’ – local and seasonal eating, organic agriculture, recycling, etc. SF is certainly an epicenter for active strategies to address all of them. Thanks for the great info!

  10. July 16, 2009 at 7:00 AM

    I love reading good news about positive change like this. It’s been amazing to see how our local farmers’ markets have grown in recent years and how more people have taken an interest in edible gardening. I came upon this link yesterday and thought it was pretty brilliant:

  11. admin
    July 16, 2009 at 7:31 AM

    Robert-Gilles – thanks so much for agreeing to offer a perspective from Japan – anything you write up will be grand.

    TN – it is very impressive to see the ingenuity in play

    Lisa – it is amazing and I look forward to checking out the link – thanks for sharing

  12. July 20, 2009 at 2:36 PM

    Gosh – I see the list of sustainability-related efforts going on in the Bay Area and I think it puts us to shame. We are certainly nothing like as far advanced in efforts to get people to compost or eat locally and/or sustainably or… well, any of those things that you’ve covered here. I am going to be keeping a sharper eye out for those things now, though. Will let you know if I find anything of interest or blog-worthy.

  13. July 21, 2009 at 8:20 PM

    I love how you met your husband. What a cute story.

    I feel blessed to live in the Bay Area, where people are so forward-thinking about scarce resources. Where California goes, so, too, will the rest of the country. At least, I sure hope so.

  14. admin
    July 22, 2009 at 8:46 PM

    Spud – Its pretty amazing living around here. Let me know if you’d like to do a cover for Dublin, or Ireland in general – I’d love to get your insight.

    Carolyn – It is a heck of a memory, and it gives me chills to walk down that hall – all the what if’s that pop up. Fingers crossed on others following the sustainability path.

  15. July 24, 2009 at 12:53 AM

    I am thrilled to have discovered your blog. We bought a small farm in France 9 years ago and have been organic from the start, but are currently changing to Permaculture – very exciting. Bill Mollison is the founder (I’m sure you know this already) and we are huge fans of what he has achieved world wide. I will be doing a post SOON on our progress and sent it to you. Great site and thanks.

  16. admin
    July 24, 2009 at 7:39 AM

    Crystal – wow, thanks I’d love to add your post on what you are doing in France. I look forward to reading it.

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