Imagine piling guacamole on chip after chip after steak taco after cubano sandwich after corn on the cob with cotija cheese, chili powder and lime (or am I the only one who puts guacamole on everything?), and doing it without guilt. Habana Outpost, a Cuban restaurant in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, let’s you do just that, although their guac won’t stop you from moving down a couple of belt notches. The Outpost’s carefree dining is due to the significant measures that owner Sean Meenan has taken to build an eco-friendly and community-minded restaurant in downtown Brooklyn, New York, adding a green branch to his line of Habana cafes in New York and Malibu.
Habana Outpost is New York City’s first solar-powered restaurant, its solar panels giving shade to customers while they eat at picnic tables in a Natural Wildlife Habitat-certified garden. The picnic tables are made out of TREX, a material combining recycled plastic bottles and sawdust, the biodegradable plates are made of sugarcane fiber, the compostable cups from corn and the cutlery from potato starch. The Outpost sign was recycled from an old gas station sign, and the gorgeous, intricate wooden doors that you pass on the way to order were reclaimed from a South American monastery. Rain water is collected from the solar panels to water the garden on dry, sunny days, and a water reclamation system collects rainwater from the roof, sanitizes and filters it, then waters plants as it passes through green gutters on its way to flush the Outpost’s toilets.
Meenan also went on to create Habana Works in 2006, a non-profit organization that provides free, hands-on community programs. One of these programs, the water systems, are the invention of Urban Studio: Brooklyn (USBK), which matches architecture students and professionals for a three-week summer workshop to solve environmental design challenges. USBK is one of three ways that Meenan and Habana Works are active in grassroots urban environmentalism, giving “practical experience in the field of green design to the very people that will go on to influence how our city is built.”
The USBK program also built the “the Fish Mobile,” a mobile water lab and bicycle-powered science lab created with the help of Pedicab designer George Bliss for the Lower East Side Ecology Center. The Fish Mobile is used for the Center’s Water in NYC programs, conducting educational programs in waterfront parks using holding tanks, microscopes, sampling and water testing equipment, aquatic exhibits and graphic displays.
The Works' Garden Works program is responsible for the certified garden that patrons enjoy while sipping local draft beer ($2.75!) and swaying to a live DJ. Habana Outpost’s Kid's Corner is a weekend program that teaches children environmentalism, wellness and community. This summer the Corner put on events like the Live Ladybug Release, where said ladies were unleashed on the Outpost courtyard, and Solar Powered Art, where sun-sensitive paper and natural objects were used to create collages. The restaurant is very obviously kid-friendly, with a mild “For the Gringos” menu portion that includes hamburgers and chicken fingers, a toy car ride in the courtyard, and a “touch and smell” garden filled with herbs like mint and basil for the kids to sniff and explore.
Habana Outpost also offers Eco-Tours, where visiting classes can learn about the restaurant’s various green features, and students can ride the “Bike Blender” and cycle their way to a hard-won, human-powered smoothie. For information on the various environmental and community programs affiliated with Habana Works, or to book a free tour, email email@example.com.