6 Sustainable Salads That Are Good For You and the Planet

What you eat — from the meals you order to what kind of packaging food producers use — affects how much carbon you generate. Viewed in terms of the supply chain that brings food to your table, menu choices bear unequal carbon loads. That goes for veggies too — not every salad is equally green. We looked at local restaurants to see how chefs are mixing things up to help the planet.

Bamboo Sushi

Foraged seaweeds salad.

Part of the Sustainable Restaurant Group and billed as the world’s first sustainable sushi restaurant, San Ramon’s Bamboo Sushi provides an online real-time view of its seafood supply chain. While they’re not yet doing that for vegetables, the seaweed salad here is made with foraged marine greens, from Ocean Harvest Sea Vegetable Company in Mendocino, that are farmed with technique that promote a replenishing ecosystem.

Harvested at the new and full moons, greens like dulse and kombu are rinsed with seawater and naturally dried in coastal cedar forests, the fronds turned each hour. Transport to the restaurant is the only source of emissions, making this salad extra carbon-friendly.

6000 Bollinger Canyon Road, San Ramon

During COVID-19, the San Ramon branch is closed. 

Chez Panisse Cafe

Chez Panisse
Berkeley goat cheese salad.

Ever since it opened in 1971, Alice Waters’ restaurant has championed local farming and the area food shed, emphasizing fresh in season ingredients and pioneering what we now know as California cuisine. The restaurant’s signature salad contains mixed greens typically sourced from the Sonoma Valley’s Cannard Family Farm, which ships in reusable boxes not lined with plastic and takes back all trim from the greens for reuse. “We don’t stick to a certain kind of lettuce” so there’s no need to order produce from afar, restaurant general manager Jennifer Sherman says. Even the olive oil is sourced locally, from Seka Hills in Capay Valley, northwest of Sacramento.

Cheese from Petaluma’s Andante Dairy is rolled in crumbs spun from yesterday’s bread and warmed gently in the oven until crispy, an irresistible combination that remains so popular the cafe can never take it off the menu.

1517 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley

During COVID-19, Chez Panisse is closed, but is offering farm boxes and pantry goods to support local farms.


Mixed greens salad. Photo by Culinary and Design Lead David Bordow.

Perhaps better known for its robot-made burger, Creator is reimagining the way food comes to us at restaurants, from tools to sourcing. The menu features two salads, one that changes seasonally and a year-round goat cheese with greens. The greens are from Plenty, an indoor vertical farm in South San Francisco that uses around 1 percent of the land and 5 percent of the water required by a traditional farm. That extreme energy efficiency makes for a lunch that pleases the palate with little impact on the planet.

680 Folsom St, San Francisco

During COVID-19, Creator is open for pickup and delivery.

Daily Driver

Daily Driver Salad

Tomales’ Toluma Farms is the source for not only the milk at Daily Driver’s on-site creamery in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood but the produce in the day’s seasonal salad. In early spring, that can be kale and mixed greens with julienned fennel and carrot, tossed with a lemony vinaigrette or buttermilk ranch dressing courtesy of Toluma Farms’ cows. Toluma is actively engaged in carbon farming, strategically applying compost to rangelands and recently undertaking to plant 500 trees on property to store carbon and improve soil health — to “sequester as much CO2 as possible through land management,” says co-owner Tamara Hicks.

2535 Third St, San Francisco

During COVID-19, Daily Driver is open for pickup and delivery.

Nick’s Cove Marshall

Nick's Cove Greens And Radishes
Croft salad.

A small organic farm across the street from Nick’s Cove, the Croft provides much of the produce used at the restaurant. In the spring, chef Kua Speer works with garden manager Brendan Thomas to harvest lettuces and vegetables at the peak of flavor. Croft-grown lettuces, peas, radishes and turnips might get a dressing of local lemon and olive oil. While some ingredients are not sourced from within 100 steps, the garden program helps: “Reducing our carbon footprint is central to the conversation around sustainability,” Thomas says.

23240 Highway One, Marshall

During COVID-19, Nick’s Cove is open for delivery, and is offering farm boxes.

Valette Healdsburg

Sonoma County salad.

OK, the goat cheese is from Skyhill Napa Valley Farms, but otherwise this salad from chef-owner Dustin Valette and chef de cuisine Nate Davis is an expression of Sonoma’s bounty. Greens hail from Bernier Farms in Geyserville; the satsuma mandarin segments and the makrut lime in the dressing are from the Valette garden; and the English walnuts come from a tree in vintner Gary Blasi’s Healdsburg vineyard. “We are fortunate to sit back and express our local style of living through what’s growing,” Valette says.

344 Center St, Healdsburg

During COVID-19, Valette is closed. 

How to Help

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Christina MuellerChristina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract PublishingSunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her child’s school, and supports the Marin Audubon SocietyPEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.