By guest blogger Alberto Gonzalez, founder and CEO of GustOrganics, the world’s first certified-organic restaurant using 100% organic ingredients, and one of the greenest and most progressive restaurants on the planet, www.gustorganics.com.
Organic Carts NYC is a project that I had in mind for quite a while.
New York City is a vibrant place, where street food is an important component of the typical New Yorker’s life. Millions of people eat street foods every single day here. For years, street food has been recognized as cheap food. It has usually been an alternative for those who wish to “eat on the run” for a few dollars, without concerning themselves too much with the quality of the food.
But in recent times, a myriad of information linking food and health has been made available everywhere, and as a result of this new knowledge, many people have started moving away from purchasing street food. This behavior is mainly due to the newfound perception of low quality and dubious food-safety standards in food carts. (I’m sure there are a few exceptions, but I’m referring to the average street food that you can find in New York.)
For me, organics is a way of life. Eating organic food is an assurance that the farming practices involved in the food system are not subject to corporate greed. Certainly, not to the point we’ve reached with factory-farmed foods.
Unfortunately, most of our food has wound up in the hands of many unscrupulous organizations that, in their neglected search for profits, have destroyed our collective health to a degree that is beyond absurd.
I tend to believe that food is intimate and an important part of human development, and therefore, cannot be left in the hands of mere profit makers. But we consumers also bear some responsibility for the current state of affairs. The truth of the matter is most of us did not pay much attention to the food we ate. And the result of that is evident in the many challenges to our collective health—as reported in the news practically every day.
I started GustOrganics with the vision of bringing organic food and sustainable practices to the mainstream. Organic Carts NYC is a natural extension of that idea, and therefore provide an avenue to help further my vision. We launched the prototype project about six weeks ago.
Organic Carts NYC is a combination of certified-organic food, ecofriendly packaging, and renewable resources, with the goal of being available only a few blocks away for most New Yorkers.
We serve only homemade drinks and pure NYC water in bio-compostable cups. We are completely opposed to plastic bottled drinks.
It took us more than a year to be able to get the first cart on the streets. Innovation is never easy. On top of that, New York is perhaps one of the most regulated cities in the world, so the combination of innovation struggle and New York rules made it quite tough.
The Organic Carts NYC project is being funded by our customers’ support because we reinvest every single dollar into the business to keep moving forward to our vision of organics available everywhere.
People can now enjoy a certified-organic full lunch, made with renewable energy and served in environmentally sound packaging, for under $10—tax included.
We expect the carts to be profitable, but we are not doing this simply for the money. Although we strive to be financially sustainable, our main goals are related to nutrition, social concerns, and environmental benefits.
The plan is to launch at least two or three more carts before the spring of 2011, and we are planning to start converting more carts during 2011. We aim to add 50 more carts over the next five years.