Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sustainable Dining in Houston and My Thanksgiving Meal

Sustainable Dining in Houston
When I was back in Houston for Thanksgiving break, I spent the better part of a day searching out sustainable yet cheap meals. Surprisingly, Houston, consistently ranked among the most polluted and fattest cities in America, had a wide variety of sustainable dining options that ranged from farmers markets similar to the one found in Charlottesville to restaurants that are “Green Restaurant Certified.” I did, however, quickly realize that while it was quite easy to find raw and unprepared food that would be considered sustainable at a price within my $6 per meal budget, finding prepared sustainable meals for under $6 was much more of a challenge.
My mother suggested that I visit a restaurant named “Ruggles Green” that goes to great lengths to maintain sustainability on as many levels as possible. The hostess was more than willing to give me the restaurant’s website address that establishes the following mission statement:
“Ruggles Green is Green Restaurant Certified by the Green Restaurant Association. We offer delicious menu items that incorporate organic, all-natural, hormone-free, preservative-free, products that are always delicious. We strive to preserve the environment through our actions in recycling, conservation, the use of sustainable products, and simple common sense.
We strive for all Natural, all Organic, and all Ways Delicious.”
They even provide a link to their Green Restaurant Association certification:

The only problem, which was a common one that I have encountered, was that there was nothing on the entire menu for $6 or less that would constitute an entire meal. Their cheapest sandwich on the menu, described below, sounded quite interesting but was almost $9!

Ruggles Green Veggie-Nut Burger - with Hemp Protein, Micro Greens &
Fresh Mozzarella, Lettuce, Tomato & Red Onion, served on a Whole
Wheat Bun $8.95

In fact, I went to 3 restaurants that were advertised as “sustainable,” and I was not able to find a single full meal within my budget. On the other hand, I was able to make my own meal with ingredients found at the Houston Farmer’s Market that consisted of 2 chicken breasts that came from humanely raised chickens that were raised at a farm only 30 minutes outside of Houston and a salad of locally grown micro greens and carrots with an organic dressing I found at Central Market.

Thanksgiving Sustainability Analysis

I went into Thanksgiving with the hope that my grandparents would prepare a meal that included a wide variety of the various fruits and vegetables that they grow in their large garden. Their garden is even maintained in a way that uses no chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Unfortunately, my grandfather has been recovering from heart surgery and has been unable to fully maintain his garden. He was able, however, to make an all natural sweet potato pie with the sweet potatoes he was able to harvest. The turkey eaten by my family was a free-range turkey raised on my grandparent’s ranch. Additionally, all of the beef consumed during the meal was harvested from a grass-fed limousin cow that had to be put down after breaking one if its legs in a cattle guard. Other than these 3 examples, there were no other aspects of the meal that would be considered particularly sustainable, but I feel that my Thanksgiving meal must be more sustainable than most.