Talking Trash at Alice Ferguson Foundation Summit on Plastic Pollution

Farmers Restaurant Group joined local legislators, government agencies, NGOs, business leaders, and community members yesterday at the 12th Annual Trash Summit sponsored by the Alice Ferguson Foundation.

This year’s meeting focused on seeking “Business Solutions for Plastic Pollution,” where Co-Owner Dan Simons participated in the opening panel discussing how we effectively manage our trash, including plastics, across our seven restaurants.

With sustainability built into the very foundation of our farmer-owned company, managing our waste stream has played a major role in our operations since day one. Our efforts are not limited to how we handle the trash leaving our restaurants. They also include: how we source and serve our food and drink, and how we educate our staff and our guests on the whys of some of our choices, such as free filtered water or not using plastic straws.

Erin Chalkley, our Construction & Development Project Manager and LEED Green Associate, who helps us build and manage our waste systems, including running regular waste audits, also led two roundtables on waste reduction in restaurants.

Both Dan and Erin talked about the importance of dedicating time and resources to sustainability and creating systems from the start – from negotiating leases and designing specs for our restaurants to choosing glassware and even how we place and label our waste bins. They also discussed the utility of relying on the wise guidance of third party experts, especially in understanding the science and current best practices of sustainable operations.

We are grateful for all that we have learned from the US Green Building Council, who oversee our LEED certifications, and the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), who continually assess our operations and present our 3 star certifications and annual achievements for successes, including our most recent Near-Zero Waste Award, one of our two recent GRA award wins.

A major discussion point for the day was eliminating plastic straws, as an environmental action and as the gateway behavioral change for future efforts to reduce other single-use plastics. Company team members hosted an information table on Our Last Straw, the non-profit we launched this summer that now has over 150 partners, including local agencies working to make legislative changes in the district.

The Alice Ferguson Foundation was successful in creating a lively and informative day of education, networking, and outreach. For over 20 years, they’ve been sponsoring local area trash cleanups in an effort to improve the DC-area watershed. In 2005, they launched the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative to work with leaders, businesses, organization, and citizens. The Initiative includes annual events like the Potomac River Watershed Cleanup and the Potomac Watershed Trash Summit, as well as a strategic framework with five core components including public education, policy, regulation, enforcement, and market-based approaches.