The Kale Lobby
The restaurateur David Selig wakes up early every morning to surf the swells of New York’s Rockaway Bay. “I’m used to the rhythms of the ocean’s tide, but nothing prepared me for the power of Hurricane Sandy which washed away the boardwalk,” David tells Ever Manifesto. “I was lucky my little taco stand survived.” He describes the event as an example of “global weirding” — a term popularised by the author Thomas Friedman to describe the unpredictable and increasingly volatile consequences of climate change. Yet well before Hurricane Sandy threatened David’s Rockaway Taco stall, he and Cecilia were driving around town in an old Mercedes running off the waste oil from his restaurants. “A no brainer,” as Cecilia puts it, “as you would typically have to pay someone to take it away.”
Having grown up in California — the “epicentre of sustainability” — as a teenager, Cecilia initially felt the urge to rebel against such earnest thinking. Today, she’s one of fashion’s most respected tastemakers, and her expertise in demand all over the globe. Yet, Cecilia finds it “ridiculous in the age of Skype to get on a plane just for a meeting.” When it comes to clothes, she is increasingly drawn to “authentic companies who produce limited numbers of hand-crafted products (as opposed to mass produced in China, for example). They usually have a history, a heritage and tend to be expensive. But these are products that you save up to buy, use for the rest of your life and can even pass down from generation to generation. It’s preserving quality in a disposable world.”
However even she finds navigating the ever-changing waters of sustainability to be “overwhelming”. “Nothing is ever black and white,” Cecilia says. “Even if you’re just trying to buy a t-shirt, you always have to think twice of how and where the t-shirt was made. It’s impossible to know everything all the time.” They believe if we are to vote with our dollars, trust and transparency are the keys to conscious consumerism. As David elaborates, “That t-shirt doesn’t have to be sold at a premium if sustainability was part of the exercise of manufacturing, selling, buying and disposing. It’s not just the responsibility of brands, but the manufacturers that supply them and the consumers themselves. Sustainability is more available than we think.”
Moving back to food, they both point out a couple of “funny trends” that indicate a growing awareness of the impact our choices as consumers have on the environment. One is Richard Branson’s 2008 stunt of fuelling a Virgin Atlantic flight with a percentage of vegetable oil as an example of how science may have the answer to something we all feel “guilty” about. Or, “take the suburban kids growing kale on their front lawn or in the city on their rooftops. Why is kale the most popular green in America right now?” David asks. “There isn’t a ‘kale lobby’ promoting it. Growing food is not even a commercial transaction. It just so happens that kale is one of these superfoods, high in nutrients and minerals. It’s not just elitists who can shop at a fancy farmers’ market.” In fact, Cecilia points out, farmers’ markets in New York have been accepting food stamps for three years now, taking in $4 million in revenue from them the past year alone.
Urban Bee Hives
Cecilia Dean and David Selig have been keeping bees on the rooftop of their Red Hook apartment for the past six years. “They are amazing creatures to observe; especially when visiting them on New York rooftops that offer expansive views of the cityscape and its waterfront,” David tells Ever Manifesto. “The honey is a direct link to the terroir, though I did not start keeping them for that pleasure alone.” Through pollinating different plants in a search for nectar, bees play a key role in the inception of as much as 40 percent of the human food supply worldwide. Yet in recent years, a combination of pesticides, air pollution, habitat destruction and global warming has led to a dramatic reduction of bee colony numbers worldwide — a phenomenon that has led Harvard to create a colony of flying robotic bees as an artificial countermeasure. David’s approach is much more traditional; by breeding “generic, hardworking” American honey bees that have since “intermarried with some Italian Carniolans” and with “a wave of Russians [having] jumped into the genetic pool,” David’s ultimately created a “stronger queen bee for the environment.”