A restaurant in New York City has taken sustainability to a whole new level.
At Marlow and Sons in the still-hip neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, animals are now going from local farms to the table ... to your drawers and closet. These aren't leftovers but leather goods made from the tanned hides of the very grass-fed cows and pigs that populate the menu.
It's the waste-not-want-not ethos of the environmental movement taken to its logical conclusion.
"One of the things that really motivates us is supporting farmers," says Kate Huling, 32, who, along with her husband Andrew, owns Marlow and Sons and a neighboring butcher shop called Marlow and Daughters. They have another restaurant called Diner.
"We're also motived by trying to connect people with food that they eat, the food that nourishes them and gives them energy," she says.
The bags, which she designed, are simple and elegant. What they aren't is cheap: Costing $300 and $400, they come with their own hip imperfections.
"What most people think of as high-quality leather is something that is completely uniform and without any marks," Huling says. "And none of our leather is like that."
The bags have natural nicks and marks that give them a handsomely rustic look.
In addition to the bags, Huling had wallets and vintage-looking footballs and medicine balls made.
"I think it's a great reminder that meat comes from animals and that they need to be treated properly and with respect," says Mark Schatzker, author of "Steak: One Man's Search for the World's Tastiest Piece of Beef."
For his book, he raised, slaughtered and consumed his own heifer to learn about where his food comes from. "This reminds us of how much utility we humans derive from animals," he says.
Sustainable: Eating the Meat, Using the Leather
Even if it is easy to poke gentle fun at the earnestness of the sustainable locavore movement, the proof is in the flavor.
"The food tastes better," Schatzker says. "I'd rather eat a peach that grew 50 miles away than 5,000 miles away.
"But the point of eating locally isn't sustainability because there's a lot of economies of scale. Trucking a few sides of beef into New York City is not as efficient as Cargill [Inc.] sending 18-wheelers in from Iowa."
Up next, Huling says, she hopes to offer rabbit-fur hats and lambswool sweaters. Unfortunately, though, you're unlikely to get a meal and a handbag or hat from the exact same animal, as the hides themselves take months to prepare.
"I just think we can really create meaningful and sustainable life," she says.