This post was written by our summer intern, Karolyn Moore, a junior at the Campus Kitchen at the University of Vermont. Danielle Vogel, owner of Glen’s Garden Market, has supported DC Central Kitchen in many ways including hiring graduates of the Culinary Job Training (CJT) program, judging a CJT cookoff and assisting with mock interviews.
Glen’s Garden Market in Washington, DC, isn’t your typical grocery store. And Danielle Vogel, the owner of Glen’s, definitely isn’t your typical grocer.
Glen’s, a modestly-sized grocery store, is located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of DC; a neighborhood known as a social gathering spot with a plethora of restaurants, bookshops, and museums. Glen’s fits right into this aesthetic: catchy tunes greet you at the entrance and produce and products full of color meet your eye upon walking in.
But what’s so special about Glen’s? Well for starters, their motto is “making progress one bite at a time, by serving good food from close by.” How does a grocery store fight climate change? There are no paper or plastic bags: you can bring your own bag or buy a reusable one for 60 cents (and get 60 cents when you bring it back). The store is entirely solar-powered, and only the most energy efficient technology is used in the store. But that’s not all, it’s the little things too: Danielle Vogel built the freezer inside of the refrigerator, so the freezer isn’t opening to the ambient temperature of the kitchen, which minimizes heat transfer.
That’s just the technical side of things. Glen’s fights climate change “one bite at a time” through their products too. “We’re definitely looking to develop relationships with producers that treat their land, animals, and ingredients with respect,” said Vogel. Glen’s has sourcing criteria for each category across the board. “For instance there’s sourcing criteria for our fish that say for example, if it’s not wild caught, if it’s farm raised, it must be vegetarian fed,” said Vogel. For proteins, they have to be ranched locally, and they can never be fed hormones or antibiotics.
Vogel developed her passion for the environment after she studied abroad in South Africa, “I discovered for the first time, what truly untouched wilderness looks like and feels like. The love started there. When I had my first job, I quickly learned that the more you learn about the environment the more outraged you become,” she said. That passion followed her through law school, but she was unsure if environmental law was the place for her. Her job at the Department of Justice, suing polluters for violating the Clean Air Act, “ sort of made the decision for me, and I went down the environmental road forever more,” said Vogel.
After spending a decade on Capitol Hill working on climate change policy, “it became abundantly clear that Congress was incapable of making climate change progress legislatively,” said Vogel. That’s when she decided to pursue the grocery business. It was no random choice though – it’s actually a tradition that stretches back a 100 years on both sides of Vogel’s family. “It is very deeply embedded in my genetic code and despite the fact that it was no interest to me growing up, it is what I needed to pursue in order to continue this changemaking mission,” said Vogel.
Glen’s existence hasn’t been without struggles, but it has definitely produced successes. In the 5 years that it’s been open, Glen’s has launched 82 local, small batched producers. Of those 82, 49 are women owned businesses. The grocery business isn’t flashy, and fighting climate change isn’t easy, but as Danielle Vogel says, “this is not the road to fame and fortune, but it’s definitely the path to progress.”
What tips does Danielle have for college students looking to reduce food waste and minimize their environmental impact? “Buy what you need, and consume what you buy. It’s that simple,” said Vogel. “Be more mindful about the way that meat factors into your diet – I’m not telling you not to eat it, but it is incredibly resource-intensive to raise animal proteins. They should punctuate rather than sustain your diet.” Vegetables that don’t look their best have a million other uses: today’s floppy kale is tomorrow’s kale pesto. Today’s bruised tomato is tomorrow’s tomato soup! “Don’t throw food in the garbage – it’s really very reckless, not to mention it’s just bad economics,” said Vogel. “College students don’t have a lot of money to throw around, so why invest it in food that just hits the landfill.”