Green Leader Nominee: Erin Chalkley
Erin Chalkley is the Construction & Development Project Manager for the Farmers Restaurant Group, which has five 3 Star Certified Green Restaurant® locations. She went above and beyond during the certification process. For example, she had suspicions that their compost hauler was not disposing of their waste properly, and after some research and speaking with others in the compost community, her concerns were validated and she switched haulers.
What sustainability accomplishment makes you most proud?
Teaching the waste stream class at the opening of our Founding Farmers Reston location this last Spring. It was wonderful to see how sharing a little information on the status of the waste industry with the leadership in our newest location made such a big impact! It inspired everyone to start asking questions about waste and see all of our waste streams in a whole new way.
Why is it important to you to be a Certified Green Restaurant®?
It’s important because it communicates the authenticity of our sustainable practices to our guests. Having an unbiased 3rd party evaluate our entire facility and operating systems provides an honest window into our world. It also has challenged us to find new ways to take additional steps such as implementing a discount program for guests who bring a reusable mug to purchase a coffee from our First Bake program.
What would you like to tell other restaurant owners to encourage them to become more sustainable?
That the steps toward becoming a more sustainably run restaurant can be surprisingly easy to implement and generally provide cost savings! For example- when looking at waste I see the items as money being thrown away, so every piece that can be prevented from entering the landfill provides cost savings.
What environmental issue concerns you the most?
The incredible number of disposable, single use items that exist in everyday life. At Farmers Restaurant Group many of these items, such as straws and bottled water, have been designed out of our operations or replaced with biodegradable paper options. We founded the OurLastStraw.org initiative in the DC region – it’s a coalition of restaurants, bars and other hospitality based businesses who want to do their part to reduce plastic waste where they can. However, much of the paradigm of running a typical restaurant is based on use of single use disposable items in shipping and processing such as cardboard boxes and plastic wrap. I would love to see the industry as a whole ask for change and find innovative solutions to reducing our waste on a larger scale.