We weren't surprised when food guru Michael Pollan politely declined our request that he recommend fast-food fare that environmentalists can order with a clear conscience. "The single most eco-friendly item at the average fast-food restaurant," Pollan responded through his assistant, "is the tap water." At the risk of contradicting the wise omnivore, we put the same question to a handful of quick-fix connoisseurs. Here are their suggestions.
JAY FRIEDLANDER directs the Sustainable Business Program at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. Before that, he was COO of Stonyfield Café (formerly O'Naturals), America's first organic fast-food chain.
"When I need a fast-food fix, I indulge myself at FIVE GUYS. While hardly healthy, their french fries are vegan and delicious. The fries greet you at the door as bags of potatoes and are cut fresh — no freezers here. Without processing, they minimize energy input, and the packaging is just a paper cup and an unbleached paper bag. The salty, deep-fried flavor reminds me of walking on a seaside boardwalk as a kid." More than 900 locations in 46 states and Canada
MATTHEW CORRIN is the founder and CEO of Freshii, a fresh-food-to-go chain with nearly 100 locations open and in development in about 20 cities around the world. Freshii's menu incorporates organic products whenever possible.
"The mixed-berry frozen-yogurt parfait from RED MANGO is loaded with vitamin C, protein, and calcium. It's made with live and active cultures that are blended with organic, nonfat, perfectly spiced pumpkin-flaxseed granola and fresh strawberries, bananas, and blueberries to make a wholesome, hearty snack. This colorful, tart, sweet, creamy masterpiece is pure nature." More than 150 locations nationwide
MICHAEL WANG is the founder of Boston's Fóumami Asian Sandwich Bar, which opened in 2010. Wang grew up working in his father's Chinese restaurant and has more than 20 years of experience operating eateries.
"I'm a big fan of CHIPOTLE's fast-casual Mexican fare and respect that they're bringing environmentally conscious business practices to a large national chain. Chipotle aims to use natural meats, hormone-free chicken, and organic beans, as well as eco-friendly design elements and biodegradable tableware. I order the burrito bowl with chicken — sometimes steak — black beans, vegetables, a dab of sour cream, cheese, and lettuce." About 1,000 locations nationwide