Around Town with the Eco Goddess

Marina Qutab shows us where to go, shop and eat in North County to live a more sustainable, healthier life.
marina qutab ecogoddess zero waste coral tree farm and nursery

Marina Qutab at Coral Tree Farm and Nursery.

Marina Qutab, dubbed the Eco Goddess on social media (@ecogoddess), is a zero-waste, vegan influencer living in Encinitas. She’s no stranger to activism. She’s been advocating for environmental causes and public health since high school when she visited her father’s native Pakistan. There she witnessed extreme poverty, an alarming rate of environmental degradation and air pollution so bad that black mucus came out when she blew her nose. Now, she’s ventured into new territory with her first physical product: {Zero} Waste Kit ( This basic toolkit—complete with a cork-sleeved glass jar, bamboo lid, accessibility-minded metal straw with a silicone tip, bamboo utensil, upcycled napkin, ceramic knife and produce bag—helps people live more sustainably. “Putting this together brought me so much unexpected joy,” Marina says.

marina qutab zero waste kit eco goddess san diego encinitas

Since she’s on a mission to share it and so much more, she gladly lets Gary and I tag along with her today—armed with her kit, of course—to show us how and where we can shop, eat, drink and relax in North County to join the eco-friendly lifestyle movement.

Marina’s garden

We begin at the place Marina’s called home for the past year. What started as a favorite place to volunteer weekday mornings became the spot she’d live, start her blog and launch her company. “Now, it’s an eco-village,” Marina says of the communal property she shares with three other friends, who all help with the growing, harvesting and taking care of the on-site goats, chickens and bunny.

She leads us to the garden filled with chard, radishes, spinach, purple and butter lettuce and an impressive bed where a variety of kales, including purple, curly, green and lacinato, successfully grow. There are also guava, orange, lemon and lime trees on the property. “My green thumb is getting there,” Marina explains, as she pulls weeds from the bed. “I tell my followers that if they’re just starting to grow their own food, herbs are the best and easiest place to start.”

Baker & Olive

Last year, after reading several articles about coconut oil not being great for you in every instance, Marina re-evaluated her exclusive use of it, especially in her cooking. (She’s not giving it up entirely; studies show it’s not all bad.) So she brings us here, to this locally owned shop/tasting room that sells balsamic vinegars and unfiltered olive oils from around the world. The storefront also stocks boutique wines, salts and seasonings, artisan pantry items and gourmet cheeses and bread. Today (and every Wednesday afternoon), this location hosts cooking demonstrations too.

marina qutab baker and olive encinitas olive oil san diego zero waste

Marina Qutab (left) samples several oils with guidance from Baker & Olive personal chef and culinary instructor Maria Crow (right).

Marina’s looking for a high-quality oil that she can use to sauté her spinach and other veggies. Maria Crow, a personal chef and culinary instructor here, points Marina to an Arbequina olive oil and offers her one of the plastic cups to pour the oil into so she can taste it. Marina asks if they have a paper alternative or if she can use her own stainless-steel vessel, which she has in her bag. Maria produces the requested paper cup. Marina fills it just a bit and tastes while Maria explains that this oil is widely popular, always nutty and buttery with a slight peppery finish. “That’s my favorite,” Marina says. She decides to buy a bottle, which you can bring back to refill when
it’s empty.

Before leaving, we sample the bold Manzanillo, complex Coratina and the traditional aged balsamic, which Maria recommends using as a dip for breads or drizzling over something sweet like fresh fruit or ice cream—but I’d be happy to just drink it as is.

165 S. El Camino Real, Encinitas, 760-944-7840,


“This might sound silly, but this is my place to get broccoli because they don’t use elastic bands,” Marina says. But she always adds other staples to her basket, including fair-trade bananas, an onion and, today, black lentils from the bulk-purchase area. “Sometimes I also buy items for convenience,” she admits, sharing her favorite jarred (in glass, of course) organic tomato sauce. “I always get a garden vegetable or marinara variety with no added sugar.”

Marina gave up sugar several years ago, but every now and then she treats herself to one of the Alter Eco truffles sold as single-impulse buys in the checkout line. She justifies the indulgence because the candy wrappers are non-GMO, non-toxic and completely compostable.

It’s clear at the register that Marina is in the minority when it comes to bringing her own produce bags to the store. She kindly gives the cashier an education in how to use the tare weight numbers on the tag at the side of the bag. It’s the weight of the empty bag that needs to be subtracted from the total weight of the purchase; in this case, Marina’s two broccoli stalks.

1923 Calle Barcelona, Carlsbad, 760-334-7755,

Encinitas Library

The quiet of the library, the killer ocean views, and being surrounded by books all help Marina check items off her to-do list, so this branch is a favorite work spot for her. “I tried to work from home, but I realized I wasn’t as productive as I should be,” Marina explains. “Then I came here, and what I discovered is that I need silence surrounded by people to be efficient, which is funny since my whole motivation for starting my own business was to be able to work from home—alone.”

She also comes for the obvious—to check out books. It’s part of her whole philosophy: Don’t buy new what you can get—and love—borrowed or gently used. And she applies this reasoning to what she wears (except for her underpinnings and socks) and what she reads. 540 Cornish Drive, Encinitas, 760-753-7376,

Lofty Coffee Roasting Works

When she’s not doing something that requires extreme focus, Marina works from this coffee shop. “I love the community feel,” she says as she befriends the stranger (Brody, we learn) at the communal table she shares. “The one negative thing about this place is that there aren’t any outlets for charging,” she says. “I learned that the hard way.”

There’s actually another Lofty Coffee just across the street from this one, where there’s a larger menu of food offerings, including sandwiches. But Marina likes the openness and vibe here despite the lack of connectivity.

She typically orders the Dragon Pearl Jasmine organic green tea or an unsweetened decaf latte with almond milk, which is what she chooses on this visit.

97 N. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, 760-230-6747,


Now that it’s lunch time, we head to this organic eatery housed in a cheery, bright orange building, founded on the principles of all ingredients being non-GMO, 99-percent organic and as local as possible. It’s where Marina comes anytime she doesn’t feel like making her own lunch. She orders off-menu and gets the same thing every time—creating her own meal from a bunch of side dishes—spinach, brown rice and beans all covered in the housemade spicy Thai dressing. The packed eatery, however, serves way more than sides, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner and specializing in sandwiches, wraps, salads, bowls, pizzas, burgers and burritos. Plus, you’ll find wine, cocktails, kombucha, coffee, tea, and Marina’s favorite, drinking chocolate made with raw cacao and coconut sugar, which Marina substitutes with stevia.

1051 S. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, 858-264-8550,

marina qutab eco goddess thrift shops thredup

Marina finds her thrifted apparel at local second-hand shops and on

Sustainable Staples

While Marina formulates her own all-natural beauty products (beet blush, anyone?), she no longer makes her own nut butters or kitchen essentials. Here is a list of what she buys where:

Nut butters, celery and more

After her solo hike through the Elfin Forest on Sunday mornings, Marina goes to the open-air Leucadia Farmers Market at Paul Ecke Elementary School from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. to stock up on nut butters packaged in glass vessels and in-season veggies she’s not currently growing at Coral Tree.

185 Union St., Encinitas, 858-272-7054,

Seasonings and cleansers

Marina visits the bulk department at Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market to get spices for cooking and baking and petroleum- and cruelty-free soaps. Before leaving, she always grabs some vegan offering from the O.B. Garden Café, an extension of the market next door.

Market: 4765 Voltaire St., Ocean Beach, 619-224-1387,

Café: 4741 Voltaire St., Ocean Beach, 619-255-1193,


Marina stops in to buy a loaf of gluten-free bread (it’s also free of corn and soy) that isn’t packaged in a bag from 2Good2Bakery weekly.

204 El Camino Real, Encinitas, 760-942-4663,


zero waste marina qutabBaby Steps to Zero Waste

Get Marina’s advice on six things you can do right now to lessen your environmental impact. Because even though zero waste (or even a mason jar full of waste!) seems daunting, even the smallest steps can make a critical impact. Get the baby steps here.

Categories: Neighborhood Guide