Saving the environment can be as easy as sipping a cup of organic tea. In New York City, one bakery has found an simple way to squeeze being eco-friendly into its customers’ busy schedules.
City Bakery opened its first location in the East Village on First Avenue, and later opened other locations in the West Village: one on the corner of Charles Street and 7th Avenue, and several smaller, more intimate versions of their larger parent shop — only greener.
Known as Birdbath Neighborhood Green Bakeries, these shops are completely sustainable, promoting an organic cycle of life through both products and practice. The availability of green establishments such as this venture by City Bakery has presented New Yorkers with an easy opportunity to take the environment into their own hands, one chocolate chip cookie at a time.
“Everything is organic and we try and buy local,” said Roche Jankan, 23, an employee at the 7th Avenue Birdbath location for six months.
Using organic ingredients reduces the release of toxic chemicals from synthetic pesticides typically applied in regular agricultural practices, according to the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRS).
These chemicals pollute the soil, air, and water; so by buying a pastry made with organic flour, a customer is simultaneously fighting pollution. Organic products are often more beneficial for the environment, and more than 50 percent less likely to contain pesticide residue than products associated with conventional farming.
At the Birdbaths, hot drinks (like their organic coffee) are served in biodegradable cups made from corn. The pastries, baked from organic sugar, flour and chocolate, go home with customers in paper bags that have had the inner wax linings removed, as wax is a form of petroleum.
Going green in the form of organics, however, will inevitably end up costing a bit more than the average bakery visit. An oatmeal raisin cookie baked from organic ingredients ranges $1 to $2 more than one made with non-organics.
Greenpoint resident Brandy Jolly, 28, said she doesn’t mind paying extra for organic when she knows that in the bigger picture she’s making a difference in her environment.
“I try to eat organic, and buying organic treats is an easy way to make sure I’m getting good stuff and supporting local farms and businesses,” Jolly said.
At Birdbath, they use only locally produced milk and butter for their baked goods, employing the services of a nearby dairy farm.
Utilizing local farms is another essential aspect of living a green life, as City Bakery owner Maury Rubin explained that the process of accessing organics has changed. Nowadays, obtaining an organic product often means looking to places as far away as Chile, and the increased carbon expenditure involved in shipping from such distances is actually more harmful to the environment.
“So what’s happening with how we assess what’s environmentally friendly in terms of food, now it might be it’s not organic, but it’s from Pennsylvania or Vermont or New Jersey,” Rubin said. “It’s a sort of shifting criteria.”
But improving the environment is about more than what goes into your food.
The walls at Birdbath are wheat-based, the aluminum ceilings are more than 100 years old and original, and the wood used to build the actual shops are reclaimed lumber from nearby Pennsylvania.
The countertops and displays used to showcase their cookies and muffins are made from recycled paper and an old shipping crate. They compost used materials, such as coffee grounds and muffin crumbs, and of course, they recycle.
These green bakeries are even wind-powered, buying wind-offsets from the energy company.
“That doesn’t mean we have windmills on the roof,” Rubin said.
Mack McCauley, 31, has been frequenting the West Village location to pick up one of the bakery’s coaster-sized cookies since it opened.
“It has a good a feel about it, part of that eco bit,” he said of the smaller Birdbaths. “It’s wholesome.”
All of the pastries, baked at the First Avenue location, are brought over daily via bicycle rickshaws. The rickshaws travel 32 miles on a completely clean process — the only fuel involved is the food fed to the bicyclist in the driver’s seat.
“It is in the frame of philosophy of Rousseau, like going back to nature; everything should be organic,” said Dew Doeden, 39, of what attracted her to an eco-friendly bakery such as Birdbath.
And according to Roche Jankan, most of their baked goods are sold out by the end of the day. There’s even the added incentive of a 25 percent discount if you arrive by bicycle.
Customer Allison Huggin, 23,said that for her, it all comes down to factoring in how convenient it would be to adopt a greener lifestyle.
“I just can’t afford to go green and be a starving grad student all at the same time,” Huggins said. “But if it was something like a bakery, where the green stuff was just part of my daily routine, I’d go for it.”
With more sustainable businesses popping up in cities around the country, people are being eased into a greener way of thinking in the hopes of lessening any burdens attached to protecting the planet.
“We’re going to open green bakeries on every corner of the world,” Rubin said.