The Plant

The Plant Cafe Organic is a chain of restaurants in San Francisco. Their locations are at  Pier 3,  between Washington and Broadway Streets, downtown at the corner of Pine and Front Streets, the Marina on the corner of Steiner and Chestnut Streets and at SFO Terminal 2.

“We take pride in our restaurants. We value our customers, in fact, most of them are regulars and come once a week if not more,” Marina location Chef Cindy Wu said.

The Plant’s menu contains different food options depending on which location you visit. Their menus range from a California Plant Burger which includes avocado, white cheddar, butter lettuce and tomato to Slow Roasted Salmon which contains celery root puree, sauteed spinach, radish salad and beurre rouge. As for dessert, they have Yellow Nectarine Sorbet, TCHO Chocolate Cake and a Fig Filo Basket.

“One of the best things to order here is the California Plant Burger. I am usually a meat person but I like it because its natural. The patty is made of mushrooms, beets and cashews,” Allan Hall said.

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The prices at this restaurant aren’t unreasonable. All the desserts are $8. The most expensive entree is the California Plant Burger for $11.50.

“There’s a myth out there that people think by getting an organic meal, it’ll cost an arm and a leg. That’s just not true,” waitress at the Marina location Lauren Vega said.

The Plant also carries a wide variety of wines, both red and white, beer on draft and in a bottle, cocktails and juices.

The farms that provide the food to the Plant are just a few hours away from their location:

Full Belly Farm, Capay Valley, Ca

River Dog Farm, Capay Valley, Ca

Wineforest Wild Foods, Napa Valley, Ca

Country Line Harvest, Marin, Ca

Devoto Gardens, Sebastopol, Ca

Quetzal Farm, Santa Rosa, Ca

Farm Fresh to You, Capay Valley, Ca

T& D Willey Farms, Madera, Ca

Route 1 Farms, Santa Cruz, Ca

Twin Girls Farm, Fresno, Ca

Double D Farms, Coalinga, Ca

Lakeside Organic Gardens, Watsonville, Ca

Not only is The Plant an organic restaurant, but they help in outreach programs to educate the public.

The first two Plant restaurants received the Metropolis IIDA smart environmental design awards in 2010. Their use of reclaimed wood, recycled tile, solar power and sustainable materials and design choices have been noticed by those who work in the green industry.

“The most sustainable thing we offer, is our food. It’s has organic ingredients that support good farming methods and it helps support local businesses,” Chef Wu said.

Aquarium of the Bay

I spent one afternoon at Pier 39‘s Aquarium of the Bay. After many failed attempts to contact someone to talk to about the aquarium’s help with sustainability and conservation, I decided to the aquarium and talk with who I could.

I found many interesting things at Aquarium of the Bay. There were many fish, sharks, spiders, reptiles and so much more. The colors I saw in the tank and on the animals were vibrant and beautiful.

California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is located in Golden Gate Park. The academy began in 1853 as a learned society and carries out a large amount of original research, with exhibits and education.

Cal Academy has the Steinhart Aquarium, which takes up most of the basement area, as well as a four-story dome that emulates a rainforest, the Morrison Planetarium is devoted to astronomy, and the Kimball Natural History Museum, which, has an African Hall and a Foucault pendulum and includes a variety of changing displays covering a variety of subjects.

Cal Academy has three stories all together. Ranging from a rainforest to display pictures with detailed history on certain animals, interactive games and even a green dome located on the roof.

There are researchers doing a variety of experiments, located on the second floor. The academy conducts research in different fields. Mostly in anthropology, marine biology, botany, entomology, herpetology, ichthyology, invertebrate zoology, mammalogy, and ornithology, all branches of biology. There also is a strong emphasis on environmental concerns, all departments work closely to focus on systematic biology and biodiversity.

I also learned about Darwin and his discoveries on the Galapagos Islands. There were buttons you could push that discussed the various birds and how their beaks help gather food and help them survive. On the first floor I also saw reptiles. There was a snake you could touch and the lady holding it was telling me all about their skin and how calm this particular one is. There was also a huge glass tank where turtles were. There was a big turtle and baby turtles wandering around eating lettuce.

“I thought it was cool learning about the animals that are still around but were discovered a long time ago,” visitor to the Academy, Joe Leong said.

Turtle

Among many of the things I saw there was the rainforest dome. Its a globe type of room that you can walk around for three stories and see butterflies, snakes, fish, birds and even an albino alligator. It was fun to walk into a room that was humid, like what you’d find in the rainforest. Here is one of the snakes I found in the rainforest.

Snake

“I hate snakes, I can look at them in that box but that’s as close as I can get to them,” Sandra Reese said.

While walking through the rainforest I really wanted a butterfly to land on me but it didn’t happen. The butterflies are allowed to roam throughout the entire rainforest, its amazing to see all of them flying about.

On one of the bottom floors was the aquarium dome. There were many jellyfish, fish with weird faces, plants, electric eels and starfish. The Academy is a great place to interact with animals and read all about their history. Each animal had an informational tid-bit about their location, a unique feature and their scientific name. Everything looked amazing in their cases.

Jelly

The most amazing thing that I saw was the green roof called the living roof.

“This roof was designed so native plant species of California can thrive. We picked species that would thrive on the roof for more than a few months at a time and that also looked good,” Deborah Gains of California Academy of Sciences said.

Green

There is something called a biotray which is made of coconut fiber and its biodegradable. It lets water in and doesn’t allow water to run off or drown the plants. The roof also has solar panels.

California Academy of Sciences is dedicated to educating the public about history. The ancient plants and animals that have evolved have been essential to our lives. Its interesting that almost every aspect of life is represented here, from the planetarium to the rainforest to the aquarium and to the green roof.

“Cal Academy is meant to show people where we are headed, how important it is to take care of our environment and the animals living here,” Gains said.

Tenderloin People’s Garden

The Tenderloin. When thinking of this neighborhood some immediately have thoughts of crime and homelessness. For those living in the neighborhood, they suffer with struggles that some of us have never experienced.

The demographics include seniors, children, and immigrants. Most are surviving without housing.

The Tenderloin district is known as a food desert. A food desert is any area in the industrialised world where healthy, affordable food is hard to find. These areas are mostly found in rural and urban areas and is most common in low-socioeconomic minority communities, and is associated with a variety of diet-related health problems.

There isn’t a Safeway, Trader Joe’s or Lucky Supermarkets in the area. The closest grocery store is about half a mile away. Residents shop at convenient stores for bread and canned foods. Residents need to travel out of their neighborhood to find fresh foods, some multiple times a week.

That’s when the Tenderloin People’s Garden comes in.

The community gardening was orchestrated in April 2010 and is part of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp. The Garden is located on the corner of McAllister and Larkin Streets.

Location

“Where we garden, we are owned by the city and are on a one year lease. This place has been vacant for over 30 years,” Community Outreach Coordinator Lorenzo Listana said.

Residents of the community volunteer their time to ensure this project’s success.

“The Tenderloin has no support, this is a good way to distribute food. This changes eating habits, when the food is too expensive, people won’t buy it. Here its free so there’s no excuse to not eating healthy,” Community Organizer Steve Woo said.

The Tenderloin People’s Garden is a garden created by residents of the Tenderloin to grow free and fresh food. Since the project started, the community has grown hundreds of pounds of food to feed the Tenderloin residents.

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“We’ve have about 30 people come in and pick the food and help out. We produce 100 pounds to 200 pounds of food for the people,” Nella Manuel, the Tenderloin People’s Garden Coordinator, said.

The residents can pick produce during the garden’s open hours:

  • Monday: 10 a.m.- 12 p.m.
  • Tuesday: 3 p.m.- 5 p.m.
  • Wednesday: 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Thursday: 3 p.m.-5 p.m.
  • Friday: 10 a.m.-11 a.m.
  • Saturday: 10 a.m.-11 a.m.

The Garden isn’t limited to one type of produce or plants the same seeds with each harvest.

“Lettuce we grow year round. We also grow tomatoes and bok choy. We have potatoes, beans, onions, cucumbers, beets, eggplant and strawberries,” said Manuel.

Plants

There is a procedure if you want to pick from the garden, you have to help out. When the residents are done, they weigh their bags full of produce to see the output.

Procedure

Manuel said she comes to the garden everyday to garden, clean, replant and water the plants. She’ll sometimes straighten the plots.

After they harvest the plant and clear the plot, they leave a few plots empty whenever someone wants to come in and plant seeds of their own.

Residents of the Tenderloin were filling in and out taking everything from lettuce to herbs.

“I came to pick some produce because I love to cook. I cook for the homeless and the people at my church. I got a bag full of tomatoes and lettuce,” Judy Mavis, a Tenderloin resident, said.

Manuel said, the harvest happens every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month.

Harvesting

SF Environment Committee Meeting

On October 24th I attended a City and County of San Francisco Commission on the Environment Policy Meeting. It was a meeting of about four board members and a few people who were going to propose ideas to the committee.

I had a lot of fun at this meeting. It took place in City Hall, room 321 at 5 p.m. It was a classroom size room with a large oval table in hte middle with chairs surrounding it. It was more intimate than some of the other governmental meetings I have gone to. I liked that it was small gathering because it left more room for public comment.

City Hall

It started out like any other meeting, they go through the minutes of the last meeting and take roll call for the people on the board. The committee members who were present: Johanna Wald (Chair), Ruth Gravanis (Vice-Chair) and David Assmann (Dept. Director).

They then went to ask if there was any public comment, its at this time that people of the public can address the committee with any ideas, suggestions or even express their support for the committee.

Lauren Smith from San Francisco State proposed another waste recycling bin where its divided into four quadrants for paint, lightbulbs, batteries and she suggested one other toxic waste to be included but I forgot. She cited various items off the SF Environment website and some figures to go along with her proposal. The Commissioners were very impressed that she did her homework and promised to look into putting a toxic waste bin out for the public to use.

Another student from SFSU, Lauren Spalter talked about her foreign exchange trip to Germany. She talked about Germany’s program where you can return bottles to a store and get money back right on the spot. She said it was a great way to recycle in a more efficient, fast way. She then expressed her support for the Committee and its members, which they were very thankful for. 

The Chair Johanna Wald stated how greatful she and the Committee were to have such young faces present. Everyone around the table nodded in agreement. Members of the public however stated how disappointed they were in SFSU. Some of them were either students or visit the school often and said we don’t know how to recycle. Its a huge problem where students put their compost products in the plastic recycling trash can. They spoke about this for several minutes and said we should talk to Xpress about running a piece on it.

Talk about a perfect scenario! After they were done talking I got up and said I am a journalism major and have close friends on the paper this year and would relay the message. I then gave my thanks to the committee and those who spoke about the problem at SFSU and sat back down.

This was just a little piece of the meeting that I reported on. I thought it was important to show that this Committee loves public comment and suggestions on how to improve the city. If you ever get a chance to attend a meeting you won’t regret it. It was an amazing experience and I plan on going back again.