Testifying at DC Council Hearing on Plastic Straws & Stirrers

Taking the pledge to #StopSucking was relevant to the bills before a DC Council hearing last Friday. Co-Owner Dan Simons and Campaign Manager for Our Last Straw, Julie Sharkey, joined NGOs, DC government and elected officials, and DC residents to testify at a DC hearing on plastic straws and stirrers.

The DC Committee on Transportation and the Environment invited testimony on two amendments, including a bill that prohibits the sale, use, or provision of non-compostable straws and stirring implements by food service entities, beginning January 1, 2019.

At Farmers & Distillers, we made the switch to biodegradable straws over a year ago. In our three DC restaurants alone –Farmers & Distillers, and its siblings, Founding Farmers DC and Farmers Fishers Bakers – we have eliminated over 938,000 plastic straws from the DC trash stream in the last year. We did this by switching from compostable straws to paper and hay. We also have always used fewer straws than many, because we don’t use straws in water glasses and many of our drinks. Of course, if a guest requires a plastic straw, for health or disability reasons, we are keeping a small selection of plastic straws on hand.

Having been almost entirely in compliance with no plastic straws since the day we opened the doors of our first restaurant over 10 years ago, we are delighted to see interest from the DC government on the importance of eliminating plastic straws.

As Campaign Manager for Our Last Straw, Julie Sharkey testified, “Plastic straws, just like plastic bags, are the gateway to increased awareness about the environmental and health hazards of plastics, and a critical stepping stone on the path to reducing our reliance on single-use plastics.”

At Farmers & Distillers, and in all of our restaurants, we are working to educate our guests with the goal of making a real difference in our DC trash streams by stopping the distribution of items than end up on our streets, waterways, and landfills. To help efforts outside of our restaurants, we launched Our Last Straw in June and have built a coalition of approximately 150 restaurants, bars, and cafes working together to eliminate plastic straws. Our Last Straw is working closely with the DC Office of the Mayor and the DC Office of Energy & Environment. We also have established partnerships with multiple NGOs. A few of our partners also provided testimony at Friday’s hearing such as, the Alice Ferguson Foundation, the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club, and DC Doesn’t Suck.

The entire hearing was recorded and can be watched online.

One of DC’s Best Joins Trash Summit on Plastic Pollution

A small team from across our company took a day away from our offices and award-winning restaurants to join other local policy makers, business leaders, advocates, and community members to participate in an all-day, annual Trash Summit at George Mason University.

Led by the Alice Ferguson Foundation, this year’s focus was seeking “Business Solutions for Plastic Pollution.” Co-owner Dan Simons was part of the opening panel, moderated by Michael Berger of Elevation Burger, and discussed the ins and outs of operating a sustainable restaurant company for over 10 years.

Tweets from @aliceferguson throughout the day pointed to the lively and informative conversations, including Dan’s discussion on “the delicate relationship between mission and profit,” which creates opportunities such as “the responsibility and gift of educating customers on going straw-free.”

As DC’s Best New American Restaurant, we work hard to not only serve scratch-made, delicious food and drink, but also to preserve the beauty and health of our great city, which includes helping to educate our neighbors on everything we know (and do) to operate more sustainably.

Our Last Straw, the non-profit we launched over the summer, hosted an information table to share more about our efforts to build a coalition of restaurants and other hospitality-oriented businesses, local government agencies, NGOs, and community members to eliminate plastic drinking straws throughout the DC region.

“Even though small, plastic straws contribute to the plastic problem across the world,” said Dan Simons. “We see straws as an important gateway to eliminating other single-use plastics and an important part of our sustainability efforts, both within the walls of our restaurants and far beyond.”

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.

Participants expressed considerable interest in what we’ve learned in more than a decade of running sustainable restaurants, which are LEED certified and have earned 3 Star Green Restaurant Association certifications, as well as additional accolades, such as our most recent Near-Zero Waste Award, one of two recent GRA award wins.

This all-day meeting created much opportunity for continued learning for our team. We are grateful to the Alice Ferguson Foundation for a lively and informative day of education, networking, and outreach. We are looking forward to a productive future working closely with their Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, including participating in this annual Trash Summit.

Breaking Bread with Farmer Talk at Restaurant High

Co-Owner Dan Simons participated in a panel at “Restaurant High: United Tastes of America” last week in downtown Washington, D.C. He joined hundreds of restaurant leaders, policymakers, investors, and supporters from across the United States to “break bread” at this two-day restaurant summit.

The “Building Successful Relationships with Farmers” panel focused on the challenges and opportunities farmers, chefs, and restaurateurs face in finding ways to work together. They also discussed how the concept of Farm to Fork could be successfully applied to multi-market operations. Simons spoke about working directly with our farmer owners of Farmers Restaurant Group and leveraging these relationships to connect with other family farmers across the U.S. The panel led to an invigorating and informative discussion.

Other panelists included Pamela Hess, Executive Director of Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture; Bennett Haynes, Chief of Product at Beefsteak Veggies; and Tucker Pforzheimer, Managing Partner of Martha’s Vineyard Mycological.

Restaurant High hosted a varied curriculum of panels and presentations including real food for everyone, expanding high-quality food across all parts of America, teen and young adults in the work force, food transparency in the age of fake news, and food trends.

Farmers & Distillers hosted an after party following the United Tastes of America Food & Job Mixer.