Uncommon Ground, Testa Produce Get Green Honors

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Uncommon Ground's certified organic farm, 1401 W. Devon, one floor up. Photo: courtesy Uncommon Ground

Two local companies— one a popular restaurant, the other a nearly century-old produce distributor— earned honors for their efforts at creating more environmentally friendly and sustainable businesses this week. Uncommon Ground, a restaurant at 1401 W. Devon, was named the most environmentally responsible restaurant in the nation by the Green Restaurant Association— beating out Uncommon Ground's original location in Lakeview, which came in at #2.

Owners Michael and Helen Cameron bought the Devon building in 2007 and took a total of 116 distinct steps to ensure the sustainability and energy efficiency of the restaurant, including building the nation's first certified organic rooftop farm, using solar panels to heat water used in the restaurant, use of reclaimed wood in the interior, extensive recycling and composting of waste, and turning their used fryer oil over to Loyola University for use as biodiesel fuel.

Meanwhile, Testa Produce, which has been delivering vegetables in Chicago since 1912, has been honored for its new LEED Platinum-certified food distribution facility in the Chicago Stockyards Industrial Park. ENRMidwest (Engineering News-Record), a trade publication, named the facility Best Green Building Project of 2011. The project, designed by Epstein Architects and built by Summit Design + Build, is estimated to use 60% less energy than a conventional facility through its use of renewable energy systems including a freestanding wind turbine, roof-mounted solar panels (which both generated electricity and heat water), a 5000-gallon rainwater storage and treatment system, permeated pavers, bioswales, and a retention pond for managing storm water runoff.