(NaturalNews) Many of us who value health have resigned ourselves to forgoing the convenience and speed of fast food. Beside the horrendously unwholesome menus, most chain restaurants embrace dodgy practices -- such as massive disposable waste, factory farming and questionable additives. Not to mention hormone and GMO-laden meats, pesticide-doused produce and heaps of sugar in pretty much everything. Despite the stigma associated with this American institution, a trio of enterprising young men have set out to shatter the myth of unhealthy fast food with their own brand of earth-friendly fare. Enter: Sweetgreen.
A new approach
During their senior year at university, three collage friends saw a need for healthy, eco-friendly, locally sourced food that would fit fast-paced lifestyles. With a vision in hand, the team created a business plan and, through financial contributions from family, friends and business associates, they opened their first Sweetgreen store in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. on August 1, 2007. By 2009, two additional stores were up and running. To date, a total of 28 Sweetgreen stores can be found in the Mid-Atlantic states, from Boston to New York to Philadelphia. But the real success behind their story is the business model that changed the way we eat on the run.
Utilizing local and organic produce from farmers that they know, and sourcing hormone/antibiotic-free meats, Sweetgreen has taken a major leap towards healthy and sustainable fast food. The packaging is 100 percent plant-based compostable -- including everything from bowls and cutlery to beverage cups. There is even an option to purchase reusable bags and salad bowls. Food scraps are composted in the kitchen, while composting and recycling stations are available for customer use in the restaurant. The founders didn't stop there. Every storefront uses reclaimed and FSC certified materials in construction, as well as energy efficient lighting, furniture made from reclaimed wood and low VOC paint. Sweetgreen also offsets 100 percent of their energy usage through wind energy credits.
Menu items encompass a variety of seasonal salads like Spicy Sabzi (spinach, kale, spicy quinoa, roasted tofu and beets with a carrot chili vinaigrette) or bowls with an assortment of warm grains, vegetables, chicken, cheese and pesto vinaigrette. Fresh, cold-pressed juices, soups and frozen treats made from organic yogurt are also available.
And yet, not everyone is completely enamored with Sweetgreen. During a recent review of the New York storefront, Alan Richman of GQ bemoaned the excessive use of kale in four of the nine salads, five of the six cold-pressed juices and in the Wild Rice Bowl, which he felt should be renamed the "Kale Bowl." Part of Richman's aversion to kale stems from the fact that he believes it's "comparable in taste and texture to lawn clippings," while completely ignoring the idea that "kale is the new bacon." Another complaint concerned the falafel which "in taste and appearance is much like an old sponge picked up from your basement floor." He also grumbled about the extravagant use of core values, which are printed on napkins, the Weekly Wisdom wall and the company manifesto. A better name for Sweetgreen might be "International House of Credos," quipped Richman.
Whatever your feelings may be about kale or perky maxims, Sweetgreen has modeled a different approach to how we view fast food -- and has made positive strides in providing top-notch healthy fare with an eco-friendly twist.
About the author: Carolanne believes if we want to see change in the world, we need to be the change. As a nutritionist, natural foods chef and wellness coach, she has encouraged others to embrace a healthy lifestyle of green living for over 13 years. Through her website www.Thrive-Living.net, she looks forward to connecting with other like-minded people who share a similar vision.