Earth Day 2011: What's Old is New

Sometimes with green, what's old is new. Case in point: cooking with hay. No, it's nothing you can rush to your kitchen and do on a whim, but some of the country's top chefs are re-discovering this centuries old European technique that is both low energy and low cost, and adds a distinctive fragrance and flavor to food. It's an ages old cooking style that is finding relevance in 'the new green,' as we celebrate Earth Day's 41st anniversary.

Restaurants like Vandaag in New York, Coi in San Francisco and Alinea in Chicago (my hometown) all offer dishes prepared with some element of smoked hay cooking, for dishes ranging from spring lamb to duck breast to ice cream.

As we prepare for the summer months and outdoor cooking, it's inspiring to think we can reduce gas and electrical use in the kitchen by adopting new, eco-savvy cooking methods like the hay box cooker. Many greenmarkets are already selling hay from local farms, specifically for this rediscovered cooking method. If you're making an Earth Day resolution, try cooking with hay -- it's a recycled idea that's more original and fun than traditional recycling.

As high profile chefs are reviving old techniques, eco- and socially-conscious designers are trying to reinvigorate Los Angeles retail, which is still wobbly even three years after the recession peaked. Both Melrose Avenue and Robertson Boulevard are littered with empty storefronts, and specialty retail, including some eco-conscious clothing brands that helped make Los Angeles such a fashion and style leader, has been in a downward spiral for the past 18 months.

Once again, what's old is new, as it may be iconic designer Donna Karan to the rescue with her new Urban Zen clothing line -- a brand grounded in wellness, social-consciousness and of course, meditative yoga. The Urban Zen brand develops integrated therapy programs with universities, as well as patient advocacy, alternative healing and culture preservation programs. Karan has selected Los Angeles as the first location for her Urban Zen boutique roll-out. Hopefully it's a sign of good things to come for Los Angeles specialty retail and the local community as the Urban Zen brand creates local partnerships, and another socially conscious brand to support this Earth Day and really, any day.

Six years after Hurricane Katrina, the rebuilding of communities and lives continues as we celebrate Earth Day 2011. One great thing to see: developers thinking green during this rebuilding process. Organizations like Brad Pitt's Make it Right and others are ensuring that the rebuilding of homes takes into account the highest LEED standards possible. It's the stuff of inspiration and every donation makes a difference.

Speaking of eco- and socially-conscious (yes, this is going to be a shameless plug for my eco-friendly and carbon natural spirits brand VeeV), this week VeeV Açaí Spirit is partnering with Bette Midler's New York Restoration Project to support the non-profit's MillionTreesNYC program with a special reception on the 21st. The community fundraiser will bring in young and socially conscious New Yorkers who appreciate that every tree and every contribution, no matter how small, makes a difference as we work to improve the environment. We'll be serving VeeV cocktails that night and encouraging "A Better Way to Drink" so hopefully we'll see you there.

Also check out VeeV's "Toast the Planet, Make a Pledge" Facebook campaign, as we help NYRP raise funds awareness and support for the MillionTreesNYC program.

And as Earth Day celebrates it's 41st anniversary, VeeV celebrates it's fourth, with our first annual Corporate Social Responsibility Report. Check it out and keep toasting to a better planet.