The Green Team

The fourth annual Bethesda Magazine Green Awards, held in partnership with Bethesda Green.

Server Tim Caffrey has good reason to smile: MoCo’s Founding Farmers restaurant is getting lots of recognition for its environmental focus. Photography by Darren Higgins

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A private school committed to using solar and wind power for energy. A restaurant supporting research to help save honeybees. A businesswoman determined to provide more local produce to county residents.

These are among the five winners of the fourth annual Bethesda Magazine Green Awards, held in partnership with Bethesda Green. The winners were chosen from about 40 nominees from Montgomery County and Upper Northwest D.C. This year’s winners represent different aspects of our community, but they have at least one thing in common: a commitment to promoting a more sustainable way of life. >>

MoCo’s Founding Farmers

2013 Green Awards Category: Restaurants and food markets that have significantly incorporated green practices into their culture and operations

A display case at MoCo’s Founding Farmers restaurant in Potomac is filled with jars of honey, their amber so rich it seems imbued with the sunlight streaming through the front windows.

The honey comes from hives at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where researchers—with financial support from the restaurant’s owners—are trying to figure out why honeybee populations have plummeted in recent years.  

It’s a problem that hits home for the restaurant and its two sister operations in D.C., which are majority owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union, because honeybees are essential pollinators for many crops.

Supporting such important research is one way the restaurants give back, says Garrett Park resident Dan Simons, co-founder of Vucurevich Simons Advisory Group. The Kensington-based restaurant consultancy is part-owner and manager of the three establishments.

A holistic approach to environmental consciousness is evident throughout MoCo’s Founding Farmers, which received LEED silver certification after satisfying some of the most stringent energy- and environment-focused “green building” standards. To reduce waste, the restaurant uses compost bins and operates its own water filtration system, which removes impurities from tap water before it’s served in reusable glass jars.

The three restaurants also showcase local food whenever possible, and serve their own brand of whiskey and gin made at a Virginia distillery. Dawn Vileno, vice president of operations, says sourcing locally year-round is the hardest part of being “green” because of the difficulty in finding off-season suppliers. But she says customers appreciate the effort.

Simons says he enjoys the challenge of striving for sustainability at the restaurants, which serve 15,000 to 18,000 diners weekly. “We try to see the business through the eyes of the farmer,” he says. “That’s so different from looking through the lens of the financial statement. It allows us to take the long view.”

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