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A little over a year ago, I wrote about Founding Farmers, a new downtown restaurant owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union.

The place billed itself as supporting local agriculture and using meat and seafood from producers that followed conscientious, sustainable practices.  Founding Farmers intrigued me because, at the time, it was striving to become the first LEED-certified restaurant. “We think it will arrive in one to two weeks,”  General Manager Christian Holmes told me at the time. “It was one of those things that was supposed to be here a month ago.”

According to this morning’s Washington Post, Founding Farmers did eventually receive its official LEED certification. But its food is now in question. The Post’s Jane Black points out that the “sustainable” salmon recently on the menu came from “one of the largest salmon farms in North America.” Likewise, some of the restaurant’s early meats were from the Harris Ranch of California, which drew the attention of no less than food writer Michael Pollan, who questioned the farm’s concept of sustainability.

Black’s article presents no challenge to the restaurant’s green building practices, in fact her colleague, food critic Tom Sietsema, derided the place’s cuisine, while praising its LEED certification in his review of Founding Farmers.

But all this controversy presents an interesting question: Maybe it’s easier to “go green” in your building materials and waste removal practices than in your food production? Both seem challenging. But food procurement changes every day—-whereas some of the LEED practices seem rather consistent, albeit annoyingly complicated.

As I wrote last year, here are some more ways the restaurant has worked toward LEED certification:

  • All raw food materials are separated into different bins, which are picked up by a composting company.
  • All cooking oils used in fryers are picked up by a local limo/taxi company that uses bioethenol fuel to power a couple of their limos.
  • Recovered floorboards and barnboards from various farmhouses and farms throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania.
  • High pressure hand dryers. No extra paper waste.

Image by adactio, Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License.