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Greening the City, One Cookie at a Time

by Worldchanging NYC blogger, Bonnie Hulkower

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I must have walked south on First Avenue a dozen times over the past year, each time passing the small bakery Birdbath between 13th and 14th Streets (which we covered in January), and each time resisting going inside. What finally drew me in, in mid-November, was the sandwich board with the seasonal greeting "We have pumpkin pies and last day to order". Even though I was going to be three thousand miles away for Thanksgiving, I was still curious about the pumpkin pie, and noticed the magical lure of samples. As I picked out an assortment of cookies for the party I was going to, I took stock of this diminutive store trying to make a grand political statement.

Birdbath not only serves organic foods, but is built entirely from ecologically-sound materials, making it possibly the first truly "green" bakery in the U.S. Birdbath's walls are made from wheat and sunflower seed (hence the name); the floor is made from cork. The paint is milk-based, and its pigment is derived from beets. The counter is made of blue jeans and bamboo.

"With awareness of organic food increasing," reads Birdbath's mission statement, "the time has come to match that awareness with the built environment where we eat." The plan is to tear down the walls every six months, recycling the old materials and then rebuilding to illustrate green building techniques. This will all be chronicled on the Birdbath website, buildagreenbakery.com.

When Birdbath opened about year ago, discerning foodies recognized the huge cookies as the same ones from Maury Rubin's flagship, The City Bakery, the fashionable Union Square establishment that is known for its hot chocolate, pastries, and an appearance on the tv show Sex in the City. Like Birdbath, The City Bakery uses only organic ingredients.

With two additional downtown neighborhood stores in the works, Birdbath is the future template of The City Bakery. Like the original, both upcoming bakeries will be made from sustainable, biodegradable, recycled and vintage materials. The second Birdbath is scheduled to open in January 2007 on 7th Avenue at Charles Street in the West Village. The third is planned to open in "Riverhouse," a green building in the northern Battery Park City area, in late 2007 or early 2008.

(By the way, it is rumored that Riverhouse will be offering its residents 24-hour access to Ozocar, a luxury car service that uses only hybrid vehicles.)

The cookies I chose were excellent and a big hit at my holiday party; I especially recommend the oatmeal raisin. Not only a great place for holiday cookie shopping, Birdbath will simultaneously satisfy your sweet tooth and your green conscience. It's also a rather interesting place to spend a few moments.

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