Think Green This Holiday

By Sarah Spitz

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Think Green This Holiday
PHOTO COURTESY OF ASHLEY RANDALL Irie’s dining room
In October, I attended the first-ever Orange County Sustainability Decathlon, where teams of students competed to build a sustainable house that offers solutions to the climate crisis. Co-founders Mike Moodian and Fred Smoller, professors at Chapman University, received a $5 million state grant to give each team $100,000 to build, transport and display these eco-homes at the OC Fairground in Costa Mesa, modeled on the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. There were some exceedingly impressive entries, and more than one I’d love to live in. Students researched renewable, energy efficient, environmentally friendly and non-polluting materials. With multiple categories for judging, there were multiple awards. But the most remarkable achievement was that in competition with upwards of a dozen teams from Cal Poly Pomona, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz and other colleges, the decathlon was won by Rancho Cielo Youth Campus in Salinas, a “diversion” high school of only 170 students serving mostly Hispanic young people from poor homes, many of whom had been caught in the state’s juvenile justice system. Their Nexus 01 house brought the small school’s staff and students, as well as their wider business community, together. Placed in the center of their campus, Professor Smoller said the house engendered important conversations about climate problems and solutions in a place where these are not top priorities for everyday life. In future, it will become staff housing. If California is to reach its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045, change needs to happen in a big way and in a hurry. As Professor Smoller said, “The only way we’re going solve the issues involved in this climate crisis is to get the public, the private sector, the legislature and education on board together. And educational curriculum must be reformed in a way that not only acknowledges in words but actively addresses this crisis.” If you’re in the market for a sustainable ADU or guest house, consider these teams. If all goes right, the next Decathlon should take place in two years. Visit https://ocsd23.com for more information. EWG Holiday Gifts I also recently attended the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s CleanCon, a gathering of speakers and products that address clean living and wellness. It was the first event since COVID so there were fewer exhibitors than I expected. An EWG Verified label means that products provide full transparency and feature no chemicals of concern to human and the planet’s health. It takes a lot to earn the label. There was a long line for the free facials by Sonage, a company that creates spa-grade, environmentally friendly, natural and non-toxic products, combining botanical oils and skincare science. I’ve used their Vitamin C serum and I can recommend it. https://sonage.com The Healthy Baby booth was also well attended; among other products, Healthy Baby offers the only EWG-approved baby diaper on the market. https://www.healthybaby.com I’ve also been using cleaning products made by Safely, available at Target so they’re not just “targeting” the elite market. Pricewise, they’re quite affordable. They use plant-powered ingredients whose aromas don’t overwhelm, with no harsh chemicals, artificial stabilizers or dyes. I’m keen on the dish and hand soaps as well as their “Bright Universal Cleaner,” all of which I’ve been using regularly and happily. getsafely.com Check out EWG online and maybe consider their holiday Gift Box; it’s a non-profit so your “purchase” is a gift with donation. act.ewg.org
PHOTO BY MICHAL STORY Irie’s “Secret Garden” non-alcoholic cocktai
Fine and “Elevated” Dining
A few years ago, I attended the opening of the now-closed “Original Cannabis Café,” which was just an excuse to toke up publicly and eat seriously sub-par food.

But I’ve got to hand it to Brian Robinson, owner of the sex emporium PleasureChest and now the fine dining/cannabis campus PleasureMed in West Hollywood, where you can buy your “greens” (and edibles) in a beautifully appointed dispensary, dine with drinks at the downstairs restaurant, Hind, or enjoy cannabis with your meal at the tropically-designed restaurant, Irie, upstairs.

Robinson always wanted to open a restaurant, and whether you’re a cannabis fan or love fine dining, he’s done both just right.
Start with the palate-whetting non-alcoholic cocktails, like the Secret Garden, with pineapple, celery, lemon, pandan and tonic, or Souls Embrace with seedlip garden, watermelon juice, lime, agave and fire water.

I loved the Chicories and Windrose Lady Apples Salad with spiced pecans, midnight moon goat cheese and pomegranate. I cleaned my plate completely and it was a very generous portion.

PHOTO BY MICHAL STORY Irie’s “Souls Embrace” non-alcoholic cocktail
I also ordered the crispy Brussels Sprouts with anchovy, pecans and urfa, a tahini-based coating that added an umami I never would’ve expected. My dining companion had the absolutely perfect and richly flavored squash ravioli, with amaretti, mimolette, chili and brown butter. I’m still swooning.

And it goes without saying, with cannabis, dessert is irresistible—as were the Plum bread pudding (perfect texture and moistness, crumb of the bread still visible!), and the holy-cow-wow Cast-Iron chocolate chip cookie with salted caramel gelato.

If you’re looking for a new holiday tradition, I highly (!) recommend a reservation at Irie (through Resy.com).

Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and review for print and online publications.

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