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An Hour in Nature: Camilla Marcus

In 2018, Californian-born chef and entrepreneur Camilla Marcus opened west~bourne, the first zero-waste certified restaurant in New York City. Camilla has now carried the west~bourne ethos (and its healthy, sustainable, Californian vibe) through to an online, zero-waste food business. Clearly, nature is vitally important to Camilla, and we asked her to tell us more. 

What’s your favourite thing to do in nature?

As a family, we love spending time together in our garden, visiting local farms, taking our dogs hiking, and shopping at our local farmers markets.  It’s very important to me that our children are raised with an appreciation for the care, dedication, patience, and thoughtfulness that goes into how our food is grown and how it gets to our plates. We also cook a lot together, and talk all about where each ingredient comes from, why it’s special, and how it fuels our bodies. I see how much enjoyment and light it brings to them. We always want food and eating to be a journey, one that our children are actively and integrally part of.

Describe your connection to nature: what positives does it bring to your life? 

My California upbringing centred on nature. Growing up in a community that cared where our food came from and how it was grown made protecting our planet a top priority for me, especially when I came into my own as a chef. I feel kindred to nature in the kitchen, especially when I’m ideating and creating with ingredients I’ve grown in my own backyard garden. 

Nature and the supernatural power of plants are my guiding lights when developing our zero-waste products at west~bourne, and it’s a big part of why we’ve pledged to offset carbon emissions by donating to the Garcia River Forest Project. The project is close to my heart, not only because of its proximity to home, but because of the role it has in protecting the Redwood forests of California, allowing us to take an active role in caring for our communities. At west~bourne, our mission is to help our communities eat well, and do even better for ourselves and our planet. Sustainability to us is about harmonising the currently disruptive relationship between the earth’s two most complex systems—humans and nature—to support and protect present and future generations. Everything we do is through this lens. We believe that protecting our planet can be a simple, not to mention delicious undertaking, and it’s all about doing it in small steps: eating more vegetables, shopping locally, recycling and composting, or even repurposing scraps in a new way.  We believe it’s a collective work in progress for us all, through approachable, mindful actions that add up to making a difference.

What are your fondest memories of spending time in nature?

 One of my favourite trips I've ever taken was to Bhutan.  It's a very grounded, spiritual place that's been able to keep itself mostly protected by limiting the number of travellers.  Hiking all day, and experiencing how everything they have and eat comes from their own land was so inspiring.  That magical spirituality, so untouched and self-integrated, lit a spark I still carry within me to this day.

 Many of us are time-poor and might not get out into nature as much as we’d like. Any suggestions for a quick nature-based pick-me up? Something sensory, experiential…? 

Bring nature home. I believe so strongly in the power of growing something in your home that fuels your soul.  It's a small step each of us can do, to progress caring for our planet and brightening our environments at the same time. I’m a big fan of potted herbs on the windowsill: rosemary, oregano, thyme, mint, and chives. Even mushroom kits! I love the ones from Brooklyn-based Smallhold.

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