Working to Keep Plastic Pollution Out of Our Waterways

Located on the shores of the Potomac, Farmers Fishers Bakers is invested in keeping our DC waterways clean. It is also part of our sustainability mission, as a farmer-owned company.

Yesterday, team members from across our company joined other sustainability-minded businesses, government agencies, NGOs, advocacy groups, and community members at the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s 12th Annual Trash Summit.

For over 20 years, the Alice Ferguson Foundation has been sponsoring trash cleanup initiatives working to improve the DC Watershed. In 2005, they launched the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative to work with leaders, businesses, organization, and citizens. The Initiative includes annual events such as 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.

Co-Owner Dan Simons participated in the opening panel for this year’s meeting, which focused on seeking “Business Solutions for Plastic Pollution.” The discussion included waste management efforts, lessons learned, struggles, next steps, and future plans. There was conversation about providing excellent service and public education at for-profit and mission-driven hospitality industry businesses.

Simons discussed how some of our guests aren’t thrilled with our choice of paper over plastic straws. “Guests have said to me and to our staff, ‘I don’t like the feel of the paper straw in my mouth,’ and my response is, well, I don’t really like the look of plastic straws littering our beaches.”

To further our efforts to eliminate plastic straws beyond the four walls of our restaurants to the entire DC region, we launched Our Last Straw in June 2018 to build a coalition of businesses committed to eliminating plastic straws and other single-use plastics. Team members were also at the summit collecting pledges and building partnerships.

Another team member, Erin Chalkley, led two roundtables on reducing waste in restaurants. As Construction & Development Project Manager and LEED Green Associate for our entire company, Farmers Restaurant Group, she helps us build and manage our waste systems, including running regular waste audits. She talked about the importance of implementing sustainable systems from the very beginning, when negotiating leases, when designing our restaurants, and even when choosing glassware and trash cans.

She and Simons discussed the utility of third-party experts, especially in the early days of learning how to operate more sustainably and in maintaining current science-based systems. We rely on the expertise of the US Green Building Council, who oversee our LEED certifications, and the Green Restaurant Association, 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 two GRA award wins.

It was a productive, plastic-pollution-focused day for the DMV and for our company. We left with many new friends, budding partnerships, and a renewed commitment to our city and our planet.