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Eat, stay and love your sustainable culinary destination

Make your New Year's resolution a commitment to eating and traveling mindfully and sustainably. | By Paul Oswell | January 7, 2022 (Updated April 24, 2023)

Culinary adventures are a wonderful reason to travel. We know you foodies will always want authentic, memorable experiences. By searching out independent, local producers, sustainable food practices and farm-to-table restaurants, you can travel mindfully while enjoying the best gourmet food that the world has to offer. Here are some suggestions for sustainable travel and an unforgettable, culinary-inspired vacation:

  • Playing the markets: From London to Santa Monica, these are the spots to sample artisanal treats and the freshest produce

  • Sustainable sustenance: Kitchens from Bangkok to Washington, D.C. are self-sustaining with closed-loop ecosystems and on-site hydroponic harvests

  • Hop from farm to table: The locavore movement sources fresh ingredients from neighbors, and it’s a hit from Amsterdam to Koh Samui

Dining room with tables and chairs
An aesthetic as creative as the cuisine in Santa Monica.

To market, to market

A good farmers market is a wondrous thing. It’s an exhilarating way to directly plug into local sustainable food scenes. It’s like a freeform, open-air tasting menu. At the best markets you’ll be able to find both traditional specialties done to perfection as well as the cutting-edge fusions and evolutions that help mold a destination's culinary landscape.

The best markets are world famous. London’s Borough Market has existed in some form since the 12th century and today welcomes thousands of visitors weekly. You can instantly appreciate the emphasis on exceptional quality and social connections to the neighborhood.

You’ll likely rub shoulders with chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants vying for shellfish, high-end cheeses and truffles at Marché Bastille in Paris, which has over 150 stalls to explore. Healthy, organic choices are the standard at the United Nations University Farmers Market (also known as Aoyama Farmers Market) in Tokyo, where you can taste incredible cherry blossom honey or rare mushrooms.

At Oceana Santa Monica, LXR Hotels & Resorts in California, chef Raphael Lunetta curates the intimate dining experiences that have made signature restaurant Sandpiper a firm favorite. Regular visits to the Santa Monica Farmers Market allow him to pair the outstanding ocean backdrop with locally sourced produce and ingredients from artisanal purveyors. From the fresh pasta to the seasonal desserts, the farmers market is consistently the inspiration.

Food with purpose

If you’re someone who thinks about the impact that your restaurant and dining choices can make, then you’ll likely look for establishments that have implemented sustainable food and dining practices. These can take a variety of guises as chefs innovate ways to maintain zero-waste menus or start initiatives that address inequalities in supply chains and employment opportunities.

Buying package-free ingredients and composting any organic leftovers from the cooking process means that Silo in London can boast a ”pre-industrial food system.” An on-site aerobic digester transforms waste into compost, and even the wine list focuses on refillable bottles.

Rhodora Wine Bar in Brooklyn, New York, is striving to be one of the only zero-waste bars of its kind in the United States. Sourcing ingredients from small local farms and an ethos of low ecological intervention help them minimize waste, and they share profits with all of their staff.

Meanwhile, Haoma in Bangkok has a closed-loop ecosystem with seafood tanks and hydroponic farming on-site, meaning that most ingredients are house-reared. The common denominator of all these places is that you can still experience exciting, delicious menus while eating mindfully.

At Conrad Washington, DC](, executive chef Josh Murray helms a progressive, eco-friendly operation, including stormwater recycling, a solar oven and a well-used rooftop garden. These and other programs — such as minimizing food waste and culinary internships with young, local residents — inform the menus across the hotel’s dining outlets, including at the beautiful rooftop restaurant that reopens in the spring, Summit.

Couple at Botanikka eco cafe in Koh Samui
Savor the lush views (and organic coffee) in the garden at Botanikka in Koh Samui.

Farm to table

Aside from sustainable travel, if you’re a discerning diner in general, then you’ll likely find no small amount of reassurance in knowing where your food comes from when you peruse the menu. Many restaurants now forge close relationships with farms and produce suppliers in their neighborhoods, giving rise to what has become known as the farm-to-table movement. Knowing the provenance of a dish’s ingredients can help you appreciate the final product even more than you would otherwise.

The kitchen at de Kas in Amsterdam touts a ‘picked in the morning, served in the afternoon’ policy and diners can see the produce they’re about to eat growing in the restaurant’s hothouse. The fine dining here is called ‘plant to plate’, helped by the 300 varieties of vegetables, herbs and fruits that are grown on site.

Field Kitchen at Flora’s Farms in Cabo San Lucas serves meat from animals raised at the owner’s nearby ranch, and all of the salads are made with vegetables straight from the on-site garden. One White Street in New York City also has its own upstate farm, bringing tasty rural flavors to downtown Tribeca.

Even with a relatively remote island setting, Conrad Koh Samui boasts a proud farm-to-table environment. Its restaurant Botanikka grows its own organic micro leaves, and fragrant herbs in a hydroponic system that uses a water-based solution without soil. Oyster mushrooms are also a well-loved ingredient, produced using spore bags made by local farmers. Organic kombucha is a favorite menu item, made using SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria & Yeast) and dried tea leaves, fruits and flowers from the garden. Guests can look in on the production process at one of the hotel’s kombucha workshops.

The hotel also has tours of its farm - Iris Farm - two idyllic acres where organic fruits and vegetables grow, as well as rearing free-range ducks, geese and chickens. In fact, the gardens harvest enough produce to serve all of the hotel’s food and beverage outlets, meaning that a mindful dining experience is available to you throughout the property.

Dining with purpose and thinking about how your choices affect the environment doesn’t have to mean missing out on quality or exciting culinary experiences. Elegant restaurants with some of the most innovative menus you’ll find are all embracing new ways to self-sustain and contribute positively to their communities. Think outside the most obvious choices, and you’ll find a whole scene of sustainable food options that are healthy, mindful and delicious that benefit others and provide you with a truly memorable meal.

Make a Delicious Memory

Paul Oswell is an award-winning travel writer and has reported from all seven continents for dozens of internationally known publications. He is based in New Orleans and is the author of “The Bucket List North America: 1,000 Adventures Big and Small” and the editor of an online travel magazine.

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