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A Taste of Conservation

Mary Swortwood, Green Dog Cafe

Mary Swortwood is chef and owner of Cincinnati’s Green Dog Café

Mary Swortwood is chef and owner of Cincinnati’s Green Dog Café. With more than 25 years of restaurant experience and a background in nutrition, Mary is focused on offering healthy food that’s easy on the environment. She and her partner Mark also work hard to include environmentally friendly products and processes at their restaurant.

We sat down with Chef Swortwood to explore the intersection of food and the environment.


Mary Swortwood, Green Dog Cafe

Jessica Keith, The Nature Conservancy:

How do our food choices impact the environment?

Mary Swortwood:

Most large producers focus on output and use hormones, pesticides and antibiotics, which can affect soil and water quality. We purchase as many certified organic products as possible, but if those aren’t available we’ll utilize smaller farmers that don't use pesticides and refrain from using hormones and antibiotics. We also focus on using as many local artisans as possible to ensure the least amount of fuel is used to deliver our products.

Jessica Keith, The Nature Conservancy:

What does sustainable eating mean to you?

Mary Swortwood:

Not only does organic food taste better, it’s better for you. Over the years, the addition of preservatives, hormones and the use of pesticides have contributed to the nation’s health issues and a degrading environment. It’s also important to consider the energy used to transport food items, which today are shipped from all over the world. Buying locally decreases our carbon footprint.

Jessica Keith, The Nature Conservancy:

How does sustainable food fit into your approach to cooking?

Mary Swortwood:

The best example I can give is with our bread, which I make daily. When I make bread, the leftovers from the day are turned into croutons or breadcrumbs, as the bread will go stale overnight if unused. If you buy a loaf of bread at the grocery, it lasts a week and stays soft, but that’s because it’s full of preservatives and chemicals.

Jessica Keith, The Nature Conservancy:

When did you first encounter the idea of sustainable food?

Mary Swortwood:

I have emphasized the use of natural and fresh products for years; I have a background in dietetics and was formally trained as a chef in the early 80s. Over the years we've seen what our habits have done for the environment and our health. Case in point: I have two children that developed food allergies as young adults, but as we changed their food habits and focused on organic and natural products their allergies disappeared.

Jessica Keith, The Nature Conservancy:

Why is sustainable food healthier and tastier?

Mary Swortwood:

There’s a better flavor when you use fresh products that are produced without pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. Even with minimal seasoning, more natural foods have superior taste.

Jessica Keith, The Nature Conservancy:

Where’s your favorite spot in nature, where you go to escape work?

Mary Swortwood:

I enjoy eating on the patio with my family and children, and enjoying a great bottle of wine!


Jessica Keith
Conservation Writer for The Nature Conservancy

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