Meet the six winners of this year’s Bethesda Magazine Green Awards, held in partnership with Bethesda Green
Grounded in Green From Farm to Table
From the ingredients the company purchases in bulk to the way its food is cooked from scratch and how it disposes of trash, Founding Farmers has long worked to be Earth-friendly. In June, it launched an initiative to eliminate the use of plastic straws, with nearly 150 restaurants, bars, hotels and organizations in the Washington, D.C., area taking the pledge to #StopSucking as part of its “Our Last Straw” campaign.
The company’s effort to educate the public about the environmental harm caused by single-use plastic straws morphed into a spinoff nonprofit and has garnered support from the D.C. government.
“This issue is so important,” says Dan Simons, co-owner of Farmers Restaurant Group, which has six locations in the D.C. area and one near Philadelphia. “It kind of mortifies me the way humans are destroying the planet. I thought straws were a good issue to go outside our four walls on.”
The campaign builds on Founding Farmers’ broad sustainability practices. The company is majority owned by a union of more than 47,000 farmers, and much of its food is supplied by American family farms. Walk into its Potomac location and a large word collage conveys the restaurant’s values, such as: Oceans are Important, and Only Natural is Natural. The menu—which lists items including signature pot roast, seven-cheese macaroni, skillet cornbread and vegetable mushroom loaf—notes that the food is crafted and served sustainably. Drinks at the restaurant are served without a straw, or with a hay or paper straw as an alternative to a plastic straw.
The company uses recycled and refurbished materials in its restaurant construction, along with efficient lighting and smart heating and cooling systems, according to Erin Chalkley, Founding Farmers’ construction and development project manager. The restaurants compost food waste, donate grease to be recycled as biofuel and don’t serve bottled beer or canned soda. For its efforts, Founding Farmers locations have been recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council with various levels of LEED certifications for having minimal impact on the environment, and have been certified by the Green Restaurant Association.
What will be the company’s next green wave? Simons says it might involve the phasing out of plastic forks and a switch to other more eco-friendly takeout materials.