In our hectic daily lives as Georgetown students, we can easily forget that we are also consumers — where we choose to spend our money matters. Our purchases at certain stores and restaurants not only support those establishments but their practices as well.
Washington, D.C. is full of restaurants and businesses dedicated to sustainably produced and locally sourced products.
The Farmers Restaurant Group has restaurant locations in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, including Farmers Fishers Bakers, a popular restaurant in the Georgetown area beloved by students and their families. The restaurant group is certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and promotes environmentally friendly and sustainable practices.
FRG’s LEED certification means that its buildings have been designed to have minimal impact on the environment, use less water and energy and be resource efficient. The restaurants’ chairs are made from sustainable materials and their food is composted. The farmers who grow and harvest the food products of Farmers Restaurant Group employ responsible farming methods, including ethical treatment of animals and fair treatment of workers.
Along with these sustainable practices, the restaurant group partners with stores in the D.C. community to promote locally produced goods. For example, Founding Farmers, one of the group’s restaurants, uses honey from The George Washington University’s bee-keeping colony.
Sadao Oka, supervisor of Founding Farmers, elaborated on the restaurant’s mission of helping farmers’ livelihoods and making quality food accessible to all.
“As much as we take from the environment, we try to give back to it as much as we can,” Oka said. “We have to make sure we keep giving back to the ecosystems that provide for us.”
As the first fine dining LEED-certified restaurant group in the country, Farmers Restaurant Group is making its mark on the District’s restaurant scene.
For those who prefer a more casual restaurant setting, Busboys and Poets is a cozy spot filled with artwork that promotes local artists. There are currently four Busboys and Poets locations in D.C.
Like Farmers Restaurant Group, Busboys and Poets promotes environmentally sustainable practices: The restaurants recycle oil, paper, glass and plastic, and they use 100 percent renewable wind energy, 100 percent fair trade tea, direct trade coffee and grass-fed, hormone-free and free-range beef from local farms.
But there is more to Busboys and Poets than just being environmentally sustainable.
According to Shallal, the mission of Busboys and Poets is to provide an open, welcoming space for people of different races, socio-economic statuses and identities to come together. The restaurant frequently hosts open-mic nights that promote free speech and expression, as well as events that benefit nonprofits.
“This business isn’t about the money; it’s about benefitting the community,” said Andy Shallal, the restaurants’ owner and founder, in an interview with The Hoya.
The first Busboys and Poets location opened in 2005 in the U Street Corridor. The restaurant is named in reference to American poet Langston Hughes, who worked as a bus driver in the 1920s before going on to produce some of the 20th century’s most prolific poetry about black culture.
On Feb. 16, Shallal, along with several other prominent D.C. restaurant owners, including chef José Andrés, closed his restaurants’ doors in support of the Day Without Immigrants protest. The purpose of this protest was to promote acceptance of immigrant communities and acknowledge their contributions to the D.C. community, in light of anti-immigrant rhetoric arising after the election of President Donald Trump.
There is a plethora of other restaurants in the D.C. area that address a variety of social, political and environmental issues. Falafel Inc. in the Georgetown area donates part of its proceeds to support refugees; and Sweetgreen, started by alumni of Georgetown, promotes environmentally sustainable practices
The District’s retail and restaurant scenes have proven that there is space for advocacy on a number of important social and environmental causes. Eating and shopping responsibly are more than possible in a city with such a breadth of options.