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Is the World's Most Sustainable Restaurant in Omaha?

The Grey Plume has been dubbed "The Greenest Restaurant in America" by the Green Restaurant Association. Not only are ingredients for its menu sourced locally from sustainable growers—and all dishes based upon seasonal crops—but every detail of the restaurant itself has been fashioned to be eco-friendly. Yet perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this eatery is its location: Omaha, Nebraska, in the very heart of industrial agriculture country.

The notability of this fact is not lost upon The Grey Plume's founder, chef and co-owner, a remarkable 26-year-old Omaha native named Clayton Chapman, who returned home after graduating from culinary school and traveling abroad. "When I moved back to Omaha, I didn't have the intention to stay here," Chapman says. "I actually wanted to move to Northern California where it was more common to know your farmer and your grower than not. That was the culture that I wanted to be surrounded by.

"But I'm very proud of Omaha. I love the community here; I like the people. This was where I grew up. Thus it was a matter of either going and living in a community where farm-to-table was already established or trying to establish it here on our own. I decided to stay."

When Chapman opened The Grey Plume in 2010, sustainability was just beginning to factor into the restaurant scene. "In the last few years the culinary scene has expanded. The awareness that has been growing coast to coast eventually made its way to the Midwest and has really helped."

Chapman wanted the sustainability of his establishment to extend beyond the food. "We partnered with the Green Restaurant Association. They have a few different types of certification; their 'sustainable certification' applies to new builds and renovations. We were the first restaurant in the country to pursue that certification, and it meant everything from the ground up: recycled drywall, recycled steel framing, recycled wood flooring, zero VOC paints, LED and CFL lighting. We installed low-flow water aerators on our hand tanks to reduce our water consumption, and low-flow toilets to reduce our consumption in that capacity. We have a full recycling program, and a full composting program with our local farm."

Chapman truly went that extra mile. He and his team even had a local artist convert recycled wine bottles into bread plates for the restaurant, and another local artisan hand-carve breadboards out of reclaimed walnut.

Next on Chapman's list is taking sustainable practices outside the restaurant. "We're in the process of setting up a community garden," he explains. "We're excited. We had a gentleman who's part of a development project in the neighborhood who was willing to donate the land for us to get this going. We want to use a portion of it for our own growing and education program for our team at the restaurant, but we definitely want to sponsor it for the neighborhood. There are a lot of young families and multiple-children families in the neighborhood, so it's a great learning tool."

For more about The Grey Plume restaurant and Chef Clayton Chapman, visit www.thegreyplume.com. For one of the Chef Chapman's recipes, click here.

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