What if you took the concept of "living green" literally? In Asheville, you'd certainly have plenty of options that could help make the case against Kermit the Frog's plaintive lament, "It's not easy being green."
This area is thick with places that incorporate the term into their identities, from grocery stores and cafés to gas stations and breweries. Some do it for environmental reasons, others not so much. Decked out in our finest green duds, we spent an afternoon surveying the terrain.
Our embrace of the green life began at the grocery store that, well, calls itself "Greenlife." The 19,000-square-foot natural-foods outlet and café — which was bought by international corporate powerhouse Whole Foods this spring — says it offers "high-quality organic foods and environmentally responsible products." And indeed, we found plenty of options for those wanting to go green on the most literal of levels, from specials on organic collard greens and green onions to spirulina smoothies.
Next we headed to Green's Mini-Mart on Depot Street in the River Arts District. While there was nothing noticeably environmentally minded about the Exxon gas station, it did include a "Green's Laundromat" and a deli that advertised "tender, juicy & delicious" steaks and sandwiches; it seems safe to assume that the restaurant would at least have some green iceberg lettuce on hand and perhaps some pickles too.
Just down the road, we made a quick stop by the offices of Asheville GreenWorks, a volunteer-based nonprofit that works to keep Buncombe County "clean and green" through "community organizing, educating and environmental stewardship," according to its website.
From there, we headed to the nearby green space at French Broad River Park, part of an evolving riverfront greenway that offers a respite from development favoring other wavelengths of the visible spectrum. We found a tree to climb and spent awhile enjoying its light coat of green moss and savoring the splendor of the few remaining green leaves unwilling to surrender to the yellow, red and brown temptations of fall.
Having worked up an appetite with all that natural splendor, we soon found ourselves at The Green Sage Coffeehouse & Café. The downtown establishment espouses a "green philosophy," billing itself as "the only restaurant in Asheville that provides vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options for almost every item on the menu." Additional green credentials include the 12 solar panels on the roof that heat its water, a compost-and-recycling station, and a waterless urinal in the mens' room that can save up to 40,000 gallons of water per year. Of course, our favorite items on the menu were the house salad of mixed greens and the green lentil vegetable soup.
We wrapped up our day with a refreshing Green Man ale down the road at Dirty Jack's. The local brewery crafts some of the region’s finest English-style Ales using English and Belgian yeasts and specialty grains. But with St. Patrick’s Day still months away, we found that their "distinctive style" failed to include any visibly green offerings.
— Jake Frankel can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 115, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.