Tag Archives: Vegan

San Francisco Green Festival

At first glance, the San Francisco Green Festival appears to be more of a circus than a community gathering. One passerby loudly exclaims that it looks like a street bazaar. Underneath the veil of scattered cubicles, noisy crowds and vendor sales, there is an underlying message of community, diversity and new ideas. For two days the marketplace and consumers converge, exploring and challenging the current ideologies of consumption and consumerism, enlightening and altering their way of thinking that could change the way we bathe, eat, get news, dress, and interact.

“The festival made me more aware of how much I waste and inspired me to reduce that, I also use cloth bags much more frequently, and I found a way to recycle my ink cartridges from my computer,” says SF State student Marissa Brun, 25. “It inspired me to waste less in terms of bagging and packaging and turned me on to natural alternatives to processed foods.”


Everything about the event inspires a change in thought, even the way you purchase admission. They provide discounts to students and free admission for those who engage in sustainable practices. For instance, volunteering at the event, donating unused canned goods, using public transportation, riding a bike, supporting local grocery or even checking out the latest in automobile technology can get you a discount or free admission.

[pullquote author=”Marissa Brun”]“Students should attend the green festival to learn that there are other ways of doing everyday things that can reduce waste and actually help the environment, rather than hurt it.”[/pullquote]

Entering the food tent, you become consumed by the smell of sizzling vegan sausages, toasted Panini filled with mushrooms, avocado and spinach, spicy Indian curries with sticky coconut rice, and the steamy smell of folded savory crepes. Offering vegan and sometimes raw cuisine, food vendors are smiling and always busy with hungry bellies to feed. This year they featured local, organic and vegan wines and beer which were sampled inside the tasting tent.

In cubicles scattered throughout the convention center vendors offer their products and services with warm smiles, eager to converse. Surprisingly profit is not the priority, at least for those two days, the gathering is about education. Displayed are products most consumers never consider that can benefit society and commerce. The underlying message of the event is reduce, reuse and recycle, eliminating waste.


America is a society of over-consumption, the consequences of which are pollution, toxic waste and garbage. No one can undo the damage of our consumer lifestyles but we can transform our current way of living to be more sustainable, aware and connected to community and the earth, hopefully preventing future damage to ourselves. The earth and humans are linked. The whole idea of throwing away waste is an illusion, because it never leaves, it stays on the earth just as we do, “a closed system”.

For ten years Green America and Global Exchange have brought the Green Festival to cities across the nation. Their goal is to initiate dialogue, inspire change among businesses, and educate residential communities about sustainability and environmental impact. Green America connects the market with consumers to create a socially responsible economy. On their website they provide a list of environmentally conscious businesses. Global Exchange is a human-interest organization that promotes an international economy where workers, consumers and the environment are considered before profit. They help people all over the world with green business ideas start up their trade. The festival extensively screens every vendor, business, and presenter to demonstrate that they make a significant commitment to community and the environment.

Looking beyond profit, most vendors sell items that are beneficial to the consumer and the environment. Mr. Ellie Pooh, one of the vendors, is a company that sells paper made from elephant poo. The paper is sterilized, odorless, durable, organic and sustainable. According to mrelliepooh.com, elephants in Sri Lanka (a country off the southern coast of India) are killed at alarming rates to make room for human needs, like agriculture. Mr. Ellie Pooh opened their factories in rural areas, where they train and hire locals, which supports the community economy and inspires the natives to value the elephants. Using poo paper may sound extreme, but moving away from paper products, which require the loss of trees and accumulation of garbage, is a sustainable alternative.

green01019Konjacu, a Japanese vendor that sells skincare products, brings a way to bathe without the use of soaps. Their veggie sponges are an interesting alternative to the polluting toxic chemicals that are in most skincare products. According to konjacu.com, their sponges clean better and safer than most store bought brands and are completely biodegradable, and can even be used on children.

“I liked the way the vendors showed alternatives to products that are not good for the environment or for our bodies, such as coconut sugar as an alternative to cane sugar and hemp as an alternative to cotton,” says Pacifica resident Jason Crist, 24. “I appreciated the information that was available for each cause and item. It was fun to be around so many earth friendly people who shared the same mindset.”

[pullquote author=”Huia Richard Hutton, geography and human environmental studies professor at SF State”]“Seeing ordinary people with their big ideas and creative forces put into practice is beautiful.”[/pullquote]

Lecturers from the SF community and the nation spoke throughout the day. The speakers are deeply involved in sustainable business, community and politics. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi spoke in the Community Action Pavilion about plans for a greener and more sustainable community. Mirkarimi was the first to propose and successfully ban plastic bag use in businesses, setting a standard for communities in the Bay Area.

SF State Geography and Human Environmental Studies Professor, Huia Richard Hutton, found the Community Action Pavilion inspiring. Hutton thought seeing people’s ideas and creativity put into action through grassroots social movements was exhilarating. “Seeing ordinary people with their big ideas and creative forces put into practice is beautiful.”

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, author of “The Vegan Table” stood in a booth surrounded by fans and vegan newbies. Deemed “the vegan Martha Stewart,” Goudreau welcomed guests with warm smiles and enthusiastic encouragement. When a girl commented that she was new to veganism, Goudreau praised her exploration and gave her some pointers.


With any gathering of idealists, the festival attracts some egotistical personalities pushing their agendas. Some attendees thought the event reminded them of a mini-mall and that the vendors were a bit pushy. Crist says, “Some vendors seemed slightly arrogant in their way of living and imposed a lot of guilt on consumers. Maybe there could be more activities to create a more hands-on experience and less of a pressure to buy products.”

Despite some negative sentiments, the festival provides an outlet for the community and a place of expression for students. “Seeing all the youth volunteers at the festival shines a positive light on the community,” Hutton says.

Hutton teaches the class, Environmental Problems and Solutions, at SF State, a course that challenges students to make connections within themselves and their environment by thinking holistically. We are so easily distracted by static created by technology, consumption, and image we forget about the larger more significant issues in our lives. It is a course that can change the way you think, consume and act.

One of the most important things a student can do to become more connected is to make time for mental space. “Mental space provides a chance to have deeper conversations with yourself, to hear yourself think and to be observant,” Hutton says.


The festival is, in a way, a gathering of individuals who have had that deeper conversation within, and are able to share some of that knowledge with the community.

“Students should attend the green festival to learn that there are other ways of doing everyday things that can reduce waste and actually help the environment, rather than hurt it,” Brun says. “I think students are unaware of the harm they cause most of the time and don’t know where to find information to understand the importance of our consumption patterns. Students are already in the mindset of learning and therefore are more likely to absorb the information and share it with their friends.”


The little dive bar is dark and crowded, a man at the front dressed in a suit offers you
free popcorn, and as you walk deeper into the place you notice the sign, “Vegan Drinks.” It is vegan drink night at Martuni’s bar in the SOMA. The back room is full of vegans, or friends of vegans, crowded around little tables holding pink cocktails. The room is filled with laughter and conversation, eyes darting from tables to look at the new faces. And after a few of those delicious pink martinis you find yourself immersed in conversation with your new vegan friends. This is San Francisco, one of the best places in the world to be a vegan.
“San Francisco is a pretty vegan-friendly city. Most restaurants that don’t make explicitly vegan dishes will answer questions about whether they use milk or meat stock, and if you call ahead and explain your, situation sometimes you can get special foods, which is lovely,” says Meave Gallagher, managing editor of Vegansaurus.com. “Plus basically everyone knows what vegan means, so you don’t have to explain your specific needs every time you go anywhere.”
Being a vegan SF State student is easier than you might think. Every campus vendor hassome vegetarian options, and most will accommodate vegans affordably. To be considered vegan, food must not be an animal, or an animal by-product, such as: meat, dairy, eggs or fish.
In the student center, the shop Natural Sensations has vegan cookies, smoothies and pita wraps. Their ginger chocolate cookie has a chewy texture with a citrus and chocolate flavor. Right next to Natural Sensations is Cafe 101, which has vegan donuts in maple, blueberry, apple and cherry. It’s so fluffy and creamy one would never know they are vegan, except for the lack of sticky lard residue that non-vegan donuts leave behind. The Gold Coast Grill has breakfast tofu scrambles and their veggie burger is filling. Unlike most vegan paddies that can be dry and grainy, this one is full of veggies and brown rice, leaving it moist and sweet. Outside, Jessie’s Hot House has vegan southern comfort food, like hot and spicy BBQ tofu and collard greens, garlic fries for and grits. Cafe Rosso has vegan Indian curry, hearty lentil soup, bagels with vegan toppings, and sweet penne marinara.
Stepping off the SF State campus will lead any vegan into the wonderland of the city’s delectable vegan cuisine and activities. There are countless places to eat off campus around the city.
For fine vegan dining try Millennium Restaurant on 580 Geary Street. Located within the Hotel California, it is carnival themed, and under what appears to be a large gold and maroon tent. Once inside the loud and dirty streets of the Tenderloin are quickly forgotten under strange illuminated chandeliers covered in gold fabric. Millennium is considered the best fine dining vegan place in SF, but expect to shell out a hundred dollars for a decent meal for two. To dine on a budget order appetizers and drinks, their claim to fame. The crusted oyster mushrooms appetizer has the texture and spiciness of calamari but better because it is vegan. Their cocktails are delicious and artfully prepared. You will love the look of it as much as the taste. Attend one of their Aphrodisiac dinners on the Sunday closest to the full moon of each month. For forty five dollars per person one gets an appetizer to share, a salad, sorbet (to clean the palate), an entree, dessert and a love potion tea. And for under two hundred dollars you can have the meal and a room at the hotel.
Best overall and reasonably priced vegan spot is Herbivore in the Mission. They serve breakfast before 2 p.m. and the basil pesto tofu scramble is the best scramble in the city. It comes with potatoes and pieces of whole wheat bread and jam. Try their cevich with oyster mushrooms, cilantro and jalapeño peppers. Served chilled, the texture and spiciness is just like real ceviche. Their homemade veggie burger is one of the best vegan burgers in the city. The burger is moist and has great texture made from veggies, grains and soy protein and served with salad and thick fries. Order a side of garlic aioli and one will be in vegan heaven. And to wash it all down order a carrot, apple, ginger and spirulina green shake is so sweet and delicious, one will hardly remember the healthy benefits.
A great brunch or lunch spot is at The Crepe House. Order the grilled tofu sandwich, creamy with grilled tofu, roasted peppers, tomatoes, lettuce and spicy mustard. It comes with a side of greens topped with a spicy creamy tahini dressing and a side of spiced roasted potatoes. And do not forget to order a cup of their delicious soy mocha for $2.75, a French Illy brand.
Another savory vegan burger in SF belongs to The Hotel Utah. Their homemade vegan burger for $9, or add avocado for $1, is grilled in garlic served with thick, crispy, mouth-watering fries. Eat and enjoy open-mic nights.
Missing the texture and rich quality of real meat? Try the Loving Hut. Part of a local chain, this all-vegan location just opened shop and is a great place to get healthy vegan fast food. They offer a variety from curries, sweet-and-sour soup, spicy Thai salads and desserts. Try the Vietnamese fresh spring roll served cold wrapped with mint and served with peanut sauce, so cool and refreshing. Their hot’n sour soup is spicy, warm and filling with bamboo shoots, mushrooms, celery, carrot and tofu, great substitute for chicken soup on a cold day. For those who miss the texture of meat, try the orange sesame bites. The orange flavored textured soy protein with sesame seeds is spicy and crunchy. “The mix of Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines is sophisticated without being fancy, and if you are into fake meat they have lots of good options,” says Meave.
When craving a late night sausage Rosamunde is the place. Their smoked apple and sage vegan sausage comes with options of sweet onion, sauerkraut and wasabi mustard. Wash it down with a cold beer, they are known for their beer selection. Visit the other location at. The location on Haight is a literal hole in the wall where an eccentric German woman makes the sausage. You can take food into Tornado, the popular hipster bar next door.
For pizza, look no further than The Pizza Place. Oorder the Timmy’s Pie, a vegan pizza with pesto, roasted potatoes, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, mini tomatoes and caramelized onions. Served hot, the crust is soft yet crunchy, creamy pesto, slightly salty potatoes and sweet mini tomatoes is a mouth full of Italian perfection. On the side, order the mixed greens salad with creamy balsamic dressing served with organic greens, onions, carrots, mini tomatoes and radish, it is a refreshing and flavorful starter.
Have a sweet tooth? Maggie Mudd in Bernal Heights is the place for vegan ice cream and cakes. This little ice cream shop is always buzzing with customers, and they have a frequent buyer card which gets you a free cone. They serve cones, shakes, sundaes and cakes all lactose free, dairy-free, cholesterol free and made from creamy soy milk or coconut milk. They offer more than twenty seven flavors, from exotic to vanilla. Try their banana split in a warm freshly baked waffle, two or three ice cream flavors, banana, whipped cream, nuts, sprinkles, and any choice of sauce. Get an ice cream cone in popular flavors like creamy lychee coconut, tangy lemon poppyseed, dark chocolate tar mack, spicy pumpkin or orange cremesicle. Order a vegan cake for a special occasion.
Rainbow Grocery is a large and diverse store for vegan shopping. Rainbow is a vegan cook’s dream, they have an impressive selection of warm pastries, bulk foods, olive oils, beautifully diverse veggie selection and more vegan desserts, proteins, and substitutions than any other grocery store in the city. It is a co-op which means it is owned by the people who work there, not a corporation. They promote sustainability and biodiversity by mostly selling seasonal local produce. One of the best aspects of Rainbow is they do not sell meat (aside from pet food). According to rainbowcoop.com, “We don’t want to profit from the sale of animals at this point.”
San Francisco is home to VegNews, a completely vegan publication. VegNews started in 2000, focuses on a vegan lifestyle, read by more than 210,000 people and has up-to-date information on living a compassionate and healthy lifestyle. Also, being environmentally friendly, they print on 75% post-consumer, recycled paper from New Leaf Paper. They offer vegan news, food reviews and recipes, articles on environmentalism and sustainability, travel, and pop culture.

The blog site Vegansaurus is the best city guide to a vegan lifestyle. They target college age readers and their articles are hilarious, clever and brutally honest. On their site find recipes, restaurant reviews, events, links to every vegan blog and business in the city, and personal rants worth a read. The writers are hardcore vegans not afraid to express it. “When people are not bleeding-heart animal-rights-activist types, like all our vegan writers on Vegansaurus, I approach the subject from a ‘what you’re eating could kill you, and not just because of the cholesterol’ aspect. The animals, and animal products people eat now are not what their grandparents and great-grandparents ate, and we don’t even know the long term effects of consuming all those antibiotics and hormones. Ugh,” says Gallagher.

Everyday there are new and exciting ways to improve ones vegan lifestyle. Vegan apps are popping up for smart phones and include some really cool features.

Going out to a bar or buying some alcohol and want to know if it is vegan? Check out barnivore.com or download the mobile app, Vegan.FM, to make sure your alcohol is vegan friendly, one would be surprised by the strange stuff that gets thrown into alcohol production. According to barnivore.com, “Brewmasters, winemakers, and distillers may include animal ingredients in their products directly, or they might use them in the processing and filtration.” Everything from fish bladder to an entire chicken can be ingredients in some alcoholic beverages.

Download VegOut to help you find local vegan restaurants. The app includes a GPS feature that helps find the locations and look up menus.

When going to popular restaurants vegans can use the veganXpress app to find vegan options on a mostly meat menu. The app includes over a hundred popular restaurants. It also has a list of vegan snack food, vegan beers, and vegan wine.

Shopping for vegan clothes and personal products is easy with SmarterVeg.com’s app. You can search for over five thousand foods, drugs, personal care items, leather alternatives and cleaning supplies. It specifies if a product is GMO (genetically modified organism), chances of cross contamination and if a product is certified organic. This app is worth every penny since it makes it easy for those who wish not to do all the detective work on questionable vegan products.

Environmental Working Group has a free app called Dirty Produce. Most vegans worry about pesticides on their food and this app takes data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. With over fifty veggies listed it tells you about the twelve most sprayed foods and least sprayed.

Veggie Web has an app that acts like a pocket cookbook. It has a collection of more than thriteen thousand user submitted recipes. It makes breakfast, lunch, and dinner easy while including grocery lists.

Locavore’s app makes shopping for seasonal produce easy. It has over two hundred fruits and vegetables with links to Wikipedia pages and recipes. It has data from all over the United States and is updates from Twitter, keeping up to date on local food news.

Since it can be difficult to meet other vegans, come to Vegan Drinks. The last Thursday of the month Vegansaurus and VegNews hosts an event called Vegan Drinks at Martuni’s from 6 to 8 p.m.. Organized so vegans can meet up and socialize. “The vegan community is decent-sized. Definitely come to Vegan Drinks on the last Thursday of every month at Martuni’s, if you’re of age. It’s co-sponsored by Vegansaurus, I would recommend, if you’re feeling like you need new vegan friends,” says Gallagher.

Start cooking vegan at home by experimenting with seasonal veggies, oils, sauces and soy proteins. The Vegan Table, by Colleen Patrick-Guodreau, is a great cookbook for beginner and experienced cooks. Called the “Vegan Martha Stewart,” by VegNews, Patrick-Guodreau makes vegan cooking fun and delicious. Almost every simple recipe has a photo and takes less than an hour to make. The recipes range from breakfast to dessert and cocktails and include varieties of cultural cuisines. There sections on dinner parties and seasonal meals as well as Christmas, Thanksgiving and Passover. Try the recipe for savory polenta hearts, warm roasted asparagus and thyme soup, panini with lemon-basil pesto or pumpkin curry.

Being vegan is beneficial to ones health, mind and spirit. “If you ever need a reminder as to why you’re vegan, read the USDA/FDA recalls page Every week there are products recalled due to contamination with bacteria that only comes from animals. That’s kind of insane, but sometimes you need a slap in the face,” Meave says.

Learn more about the politics behind vegan lifestyles by watching Earthlings, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, about leather, fur and meat production. Read Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser, which investigates the fast food industry and how consumers are affected.

There is no obligation to be a vegan when sampling the cuisine or enjoying the culture, and it will not hurt to expand your horizons and try something new and different. You may even find you really like it. New vegan restaurants are popping up all over the city and the variety of vegan cultures are endless. San Francisco is great city to explore and discover new experiences, especially for vegans. Next time you walk into a vegan restaurant and delve into that savory and flavorful bite of pizza, soup, burger or ice cream, remember how good it is for your body and how by eating vegan you are not contributing to animal cruelty, pollution, the spread of toxic chemicals and a corrupt food industry. It is a lifestyle choice that has a big impact.