What better person to get sustainable living tips from than an editor at the new magazine Rodale’s Organic Life? For that, we have Karen Shimizu, a conscious life and food writer, who lived in New York City for eight years as she worked her way up at the foodie magazine Saveur.
She worked in Manhattan during the day, but at night went home to Brooklyn. “I lived on the UES for a hot second, but very quickly figured out what I wanted to be in Brooklyn, where the scale of life felt more human—quieter; greener—and where I could see the sky,” she told me by email.
A year ago she jumped to Organic Life, a publication by Rodale Inc. that is like a bowl of farmer’s market soup: rich, comforting, tasty, and authentic. “One of the things that we put at the heart of our philosophy, and that I’ve taken to heart, is that sustainable living is not simply about making choices that are better for the planet,” she says. “It’s also about figuring out how to make those choices sustainable for you. What are the good things you can do that are also going to bring more happiness, calm, and health into your life—so you can stick with those changes long-term? To make the shift to a greener, cleaner way of living, you need to make change in a way that increases the joy quotient in your world, or it’s not going to last.”
Her career change involved leaving the city, and moving out to Pennsylvania. It was perfect timing, as she just had her second baby (see right!). Now she walks to work, has a garden, and eats an organic lunch in the Rodale Inc. cafeteria, composting and recycling when she’s done. Even though she’s finally fled the city grind, she’s often back – I was lucky enough to meet and talk with her at the Organic Life Farm2Fork event a few weeks back.
Of course, I decided to get her take on the sustainable city life. Asking an editor who seeks out organic food experiences for her recommendations? You know this one is going to be good!
What’s your favorite NYC restaurant?
It depends on the meal! For breakfast, I love Fort Defiance in Red Hook. There’s no better place to get an egg sandwich and a bourbon milk punch at nine in the morning on a Saturday. And I have built entire weekends around the BLT at the Double Windsor, a gastropub in Windsor Terrace. With smoky Nueske’s bacon, crisp, fresh lettuces, and a juicy tomato on grilled sourdough, I think I could eat it for lunch every day and never get tired of it. And for dinner, Saravana Bhavan, a South Indian restaurant in Murray Hill. The food—all vegetarian—is spiced to the hilt, and the lentil dosas are these crispy ethereal wonders.
Your fave bar?
The Up & Up in Greenwich Village. It’s low-key and intimate, and happens to make the most delicious craft cocktails in the city.
Describe your perfect Sunday.
A slow morning with breakfast at home. A day hike with a picnic at the summit. A fire in the backyard fire pit and a boulevardier to finish the day.
What’s your favorite place to shop in the city?
I like to window shop at ABC Carpet & Home. And then walk across the street to Fishs Eddy and pick up something for my kitchen that I can actually afford.
Where do you do your grocery shopping in the city?
The Gowanus Whole Foods for pantry staples. Kalustyans in Murray Hill for spices. Chinatown markets for spanking fresh produce at bargain-basement prices.
Do you vintage shop? Where do you go?
I adore vintage shopping. One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon is to walk up Fifth avenue in Park Slope, from Prospect Avenue to Flatbush. There are half a dozen or so good stores to pop in and out of on the way—Monk, Beacon’s Closet, and Life Boutique Thrift are my favorites.
What’s your favorite non-toxic beauty product?
I don’t wear makeup, but I love, love, love Éminence Organics skincare products, especially their coconut milk cleanser.
What’s your preferred day trip outside of the city?
A day and a night at Mohonk Mountain House in the Hudson Valley. It’s been run by the same Quaker family for over a hundred years. I love how oriented towards the outdoors it is, with activities scheduled each day—lke bird-watching or snowshoing—that makes the place feel like a cross between a summer camp and an old-school sanitarium.
How has living sustainably changed your life for the better?
Making better environmental decisions has happily translated into a better quality of life 100 percent of the time. Driving less means walking more. Choosing organic whole ingredients at the supermarket means eating healthier, more delicious food. Learning to garden has gotten me outside into the fresh air more—and it turns out that getting my hands in the dirt is profoundly calming and centering.
What’s your biggest, unsustainable bad habit?
Eating red meat. I know it’s awful for the environment, so try to eat it sparingly. But I don’t think I can ever give it up. I love it way too much.
Do you ever lecture your friends on their non-green choices?
Nope. I think everyone does what they can, where they can, when they can. And that’s a big part of our philosophy at Organic Life, too; we never want to take a strident, lecturing, shame-on-you attitude towards our readers. We feel strongly that an organic life isn’t an all or nothing proposition. Even little changes have a big impact.
What do you find most challenging about living sustainably?
Plastic. I’d like to do without it, but it’s incredibly pervasive—any time I buy something, it seems, a little more of it comes home with me.