D.C. is booming with cool and socially-conscious businesses that can help you live a more sustainable life.
From upcycled beer gardens to eco-friendly jewelers, small businesses in D.C. are moving into the new century with conscientiousness and flair. Give these earth-friendly spots a try next time you’re out and about
Howl To The Chief
With its presidential name and Eastern Market location within a short distance of the Capitol, this inviting pet shop specializing in organic and all-natural pet food is practically a D.C. institution, at least among animal lovers. The store’s food selection includes raw dog and cat food, raw bones, goat’s milk, doggie frozen yogurt and homemade dog cookies decorated to suit the season. Other sustainable products like pet-safe ice melt and food from family-owned artisan producers round out the socially-conscious offerings at this pet owner’s paradise. Grooming services and self-service dog-washing bays make it into a full-service operation. No wonder its fans are almost as devoted to the business as they are to their pets.
El Rey Taqueria and Mexican Beer Garden
Even on eclectic U Street, El Rey is an unusual sight: Its blue-yellow-and-orange exterior has the corrugated look more commonly associated with dockyards than Mexican restaurants. This ultimate recycling project— dubbed by Washingtonian as “shipping-container chic”—is the city’s first enclosed building made of the recycled industrial containers. Restaurateur brothers Eric and Ian Hilton had five of them brought in via crane to create a welcoming eatery and beer garden with a retractable roof. More than 60 percent of the restaurant’s building materials are recycled. But the restaurant’s devotion to eco-friendliness goes even deeper: It sells its used fryer oil, recycles—not a given for restaurants—and focuses on water conservation. Pass the guacamole!
Run by daughter-mother team Sara and Marilyn Polon, Soupergirl is the quintessential local-food business: simple, delicious and healthy meals made from produce sourced from area farms. With locations on M Street and in Takoma Park, the pair serve up vegan, kosher soups—from golden beet gazpacho to curried split pea-apple-kale—along with creative salads such as cabbage-kale-tahini slaw. They buy from growers who frequent the Dupont Circle Farmers Market— the Farm at Sunnyside, Next Step Produce, Toigo Orchard, among others—along with Tuscaora, a local farm co-op. The Polons’ fans are as faithful as their soups are tasty.
Dangerously Delicious Pies
This pie shop with attitude uses locally-grown ingredients whenever possible in creating its wide range of sweet and savory pies and quiches. The fresh, seasonal ingredients and handmade crusts with no additives or preservatives have inspired readers of Washington City Paper to name this “D.C.’s best pie” six years running. Of course the flavors—such as chocolate pecan, summer berry, BBQ pork, and “hot rod potato”—might have something to do with that too. At two D.C. locations (and others in Baltimore, Detroit and Austin), rock-and-roller founder Rodney Henry—front man of Baltimore’s The Glenmont Popes—keeps rockin’ and rollin’ … pie dough, that is.
I Gorman Jewelers
This family-run company known for its eclectic selection of engagement and wedding rings incorporates a green sensibility into the business of selling gold and gems. The Gorman family—Bonnie and Ivan, who founded the store in 1981, and their children, Adam and Nicole, are committed to eco-friendly and socially-responsible practices. The 2007 construction of the company’s new storefront prioritized green options like LED lighting and recycled building materials. The jewelry they sell is often made from recycled metals and ethically-sourced, certified conflict-free diamonds and gemstones. Now, that’s beautiful.