Eat Drink Local Profile #39: I Love New York’s Greenest New Yorker

The Greenest New Yorker learns how to use a mandoline from Inside Park chef Matt Weingarten.

The Role Model:

Kaity Tsui

What She Does:

This 25 year old native-New Yorker lives with her family in Murray Hill and spends most of her waking hours working and volunteering “to make New York a greener, greater and more beautiful city.” Last year, I LOVE NEW YORK, a proud partner in Eat Drink Local, bestowed on her the “Greenest New Yorker” award as part of their Greenheart NY program, because the state agency felt the effort and devotion Tsui put into greening NYC could be extended to the whole of New York State.

So, now she travels around the state, alongside Greenheart NY, exploring and spotlighting Empire State eco-tourism ideas. She blogs at greenheartny.wordpress.com.

She recently stopped by the Union Square Greenmarket to chat with Chef Matt Weingarten of Inside Park at St. Bart (see their Eat Drink Local menu offerings here) as he demoed an autumn root sauté with purslane and honey, and we asked her to explain why what we put in our mouths is part of her green mission. Our conversation follows:

On your recent Greenmarket visit, you met with vendors and shopped and cooked, but you also carved out time to visit the Lower East Side Ecology Center booth to brush up on composting. You live in an apartment, so how do you compost?

When I cook, I collect all the vegetable and fruit scraps for compost. Although I do not own a worm bin, I’ve made a compromise with my family and I get to store all the scraps in the freezer until I can’t fit them anymore. I carry these scraps in reusable bags and drop them off with The Lower East Side Ecology Center at the Union Square Greenmarket. I also enrolled in the LESEC’s “Master Composter Training Program.” I like to compost because I feel good knowing that I’m not wasting Nature’s gifts. According to The Lower East Side Ecology Center, “the average New York City household throws out over two pounds of food waste per day, amounting to over 3,000 tons of organic matter that must be trucked off to distant landfills.”

Yes, food waste is a serious problem in cities. And as you pointed out in discussions at last year’s NYC Food and Climate Summit at New York University, it mostly gets trucked away to landfills where it becomes a powerful greenhouse gas emitter. But food containers are also a big part of the waste stream in New York City. Any tips for reducing this sort of waste?

My solution is to have fun with your own Tupperware – bring it to the restaurant if you know you’ll take home leftovers. You’ll reduce the number of containers you bring back with you, as well as the cupboard space you use to store them. I’m also a huge advocate of using reusable utensils – in my case, I use chopsticks but any silverware will do.

I also think organizations such as City Harvest provide services that are necessary to reduce food waste and bring awareness to hunger issues in communities that can’t afford to eat or simply eat healthy, thereby exercising the “cradle-to-cradle” practice of a non-waste cycle.

Do you cook a lot?

I usually cook for my parents and brother on weekends, since my mother cooks for us on weekdays. For the most part, I experiment with whatever’s in the kitchen – I refuse to let anything go to waste and I enjoy coming up with creative dishes – sometimes tasty, sometimes not so tasty, but always surprising. My cooking bible is Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Are you vegetarian?

Up until recently I was a pescatarian, which lasted for a few years.  I’m an omnivore, but when I choose to eat meat, I make sure that I know where it came from and that it was produced sustainably – grass-fed, no antibiotics or hormones, the works. I also try to eat locally, organically, and seasonally – everything just tastes better fresh. On the plus side, you save money when you shop in season!

And if you were shopping right now, what might you buy?

I love consuming apples in all forms – apple cider, apple butter, and of course just plain apples. I’m thrilled that they come from local sources – I never realized there was such a variety! And best of all, they’re available all year round!

Any favorite farms?

I do not have a favorite farm (yet!). Hawthorne Valley Farm’s kimchi is remarkable, and their granola is really yummy. At Union Square Greenmarket, I’m also a fan of David Graves; I’m a regular buyer of his gooseberry jam, but I just learned that he’s also The Bee Man of NYC?

Note: Edible featured David way back in our launch issue in the fall of 2008.

How about tap water?

I really like my tap water, seriously. The quality is great and the price is fair. I almost always carry my own stainless steel “Hipper than Hippie” Klean Kanteen bottle, which fits in my hand and tote bags.

When you’re not drinking tap, any favorite watering hole?

If I’m in the mood for a cold beer, which usually happens during summer, I visit the Chelsea Brewery in Chelsea Piers, Manhattan. Their beer is fantastic – plus, they offer free tours on Saturday afternoons!

At Edible we like to plan our travel to different corners of the Empire State around food and drink experiences. Any pointers on how to crisscross the state to seek out ice cream shops and apple orchards and wineries, while keeping tabs on your carbon (and other) footprints?

Greenheart NY is a go-to resource for the ecologically minded traveler in New York State. It works with the Green Restaurant Association to certify and promote restaurants statewide who employ sustainable business practices. It lists eco-certified hotels, hybrid car rental, and eco-certified attractions. And Amtrak offers a 20% discount for all travel within New York State. Just ask for the I Love NY offer.

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Brian is the editor at large of Edible East End, Edible Long Island, Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn. He writes from his home in Sag Harbor, New York, where he and his family tend a home garden and oysters. He is also obsessed with ducks, donuts and dumplings.