What I love about visiting colleges is that I get to see so many different towns. For years, I have heard about Ithaca, New York because of the famous restaurant, Moosewood. This restaurant is known for its inspiring vegetarian and fish cookbooks. I have one of the Moosewood cookbooks and I must say, every recipe in the book is fantastic.
When we decided to take my oldest to see Cornell, I knew that at long last I would get to eat at my beloved Moosewood. I also heard that Cornell’s campus is one of the prettiest in the country. So, this trip was going to be a treat.
What I did not realize is that Ithaca is uber-green not only in the nature sense with its beautiful gorges but in the way of life offered by the town. It has a hippy feel to it as if time has stood still.
Pictured above is one of the parts of the gorges. We visited two. The first gorge we went to had a beautiful waterfall where water cascaded over rocks at the bottom of the pool. My kids thought they could go swimming in the water but it was too cold for their taste.
The second gorge we went to was adjacent to the Cornell campus. We hiked up endless plateaus of small waterfalls passing along the way people just enjoying the beauty. This gorge just drew you in asking you to sit awhile and reflect on life rather than hurrying through your day. I was astonished that the steps and paths were maintained so well, especially given the rough winters that Ithaca has. For more information about nature exploration in Ithaca, click here.
Our next stop was The Commons, which is a centralized shopping area in the middle of town, containing many green shops. I was in culture shock to say the least since I have been used to green stores scattered around NJ. Here are some of the stores I went into:
Ithaca Hemp Company sells various clothing, skin care, paper products and accessories made out of hemp. They also carried clothing made out of organic cotton and hemp/cotton blend.
In addition, there were a couple of vintage stores which I can never resist. Second Time Around carries gently used and new clothing items. Loose Threads carries affordable funky new clothing on their first floor and vintage clothing on their second floor.
Race Office Supply and Variety offered the convenience of all of your green office needs in one place. I went into the store hoping to find binders for my children for back to school. They sell recycled content notebooks and Rebinder Recycled binders made out of corrugated cardboard. (The concept behind this notebook is that you can replace your cover when its life is over with a new cover and recycle the old shell.) However, the Rebinder binders were priced at $11 for a 2” binder. The price was a little high for me, especially since I have four kids with multiple binder needs. If you are interested in buying these binders in bulk, check out the Sustainable Group Products where you can buy them for half the price.
In addition, the store offers art supplies and beauty products as well. It reminded me of the old mom and pop stores that I used to visit as a kid.
To top it all off, there was Home Green Home, a green home furnishing and accessory store. I went into the store hoping to find my decomposable compost bags. Unfortunately, they did not carry them. However, the store offers paint, home furnishings from such designers as Cisco Brothers, table ware, blankets, towels and other items. What a great place.
I am not a prude but I have to mention my shock of finding two stores that carried beautiful glass smoking paraphernalia. They looked like bongs to me. I went to the University of Florida which is the home of Gainesville green, but it was so open and in your face. I even asked a local about this and she explained that it is quite common for weed smoking from college kids to older adults in their sixties. I guess this adds to the green of Ithaca?
That night I ate at Moosewood and had a delicious Mediterranean appetizer and a veggie stew for dinner. The stew needed more spice so I was a little disappointed, but I am glad I was able to finally eat at the restaurant. And what better way to top off a meal. Yep, ice cream. The locals told me to go to Purity Ice Cream, an ice cream place that makes all their products from locally made products. Somebody pinch me. I can’t eat ice cream but my kids really enjoyed the ice cream.
What I loved about Ithaca is that being sustainable is a way of life not a marketing tool. When we ate at Collegetown Bagels, I was told that most of the bagels were made from organic products. Nothing was labeled that this particular bagel was organic and others were not. It just was expected. I can’t eat bagels since they make me fall asleep. Instead, I ate a tofu scrambled omelet. It was different and kept me filled up until lunch.
Recycling is amazing in Ithaca. At the bagel shop, there were the usual recycling bins (glass, aluminum, etc.). In addition, there were bins for compostable plates and utensils, and food. In this town, I was told by another local, that you are fined if you do not recycle. My kind of town.
It was refreshing to have the hotel take my plastic bottles and recycle them for me. The hardest part of the college trips is not being able to recycle anything. Rest stops do not have recycling. Hotels and restaurants do not have recycling. Only the college campuses seem to have bins.
My son had two campus tours planned. So, during the second one I went with my younger ones to visit the Cornell gardens. What a treat. (I had to bribe them with home made ice cream made right on the campus from local dairy farms.) We looked at their vegetable garden that makes my garden look quite small, a perennial garden, and a shrub and tree garden. I am so obsessed with gardening that I called home and left messages on my machine as to the plants I loved.
Pictured above is a Chinese Chive Plant. It is on my must have list.
After we left Cornell, I wanted to find organic dog biscuits for the bar mitzvah. My son’s bar mitzvah project was helping to take care of an elderly person’s dog. We were going to place dog biscuits on the luncheon tables to be donated to a shelter. I figured some place in Ithaca would have the dog biscuits.
Again I asked a local and she suggested Wal-Mart. You could have just knocked me off my seat. Wal-Mart, I questioned. No way, as I shook my head. The local woman said to me that I needed to understand that Ithaca is very green and they will have a lot of green products. Putting my doubts aside, we went to Wal-Mart.
Sure enough, there was Newman’s organic dog treats right in the dog aisle. This was one big green store. Why can’t Wal-Mart offer these green products in their other stores? Affordable green. Do any of you have a green Wal-Mart where you live?
For a small town, I noticed a lot of homeless people. A local told me that the homeless people like Ithaca because the college students are more sympathetic to them. Plus, the town is very liberal.
What was my son’s assessment of Ithaca? He loved the academics at Cornell but Ithaca is in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do. Plus, it gets really cold. He prefers a city rather than a college town. So, unless I go to visit again myself, I won’t be traveling to Ithaca anytime soon. I am sure if I do, the town will be the same since it seems like it is the town time forgot but so much farther ahead on the green curve.