Following eco-friendly trend, Davenport Coffee Lounge goes strawless
Other AU Dining locations are also offering compostable straws
Students returning to campus this fall might have noticed a new offering in the the Davenport Coffee Lounge: strawless lids for iced beverages.
This decision comes as companies like Starbucks have announced their intentions to eliminate plastic straws from their stores. Plastic straws and stirrers make an estimated 7.5 percent of plastic in the environment, according to an analysis by a group of pollution research nonprofits called Better Alternatives Now. By the year 2050, a recent World Economic Forum report found, the plastic in the world’s oceans will outweigh the fish.
The Dav is the first location on campus to offer these lids, although AU Dining locations managed by Aramark, including Freshii and Global Fresh, have recently been offering more eco-friendly paper straws for drinks.
Jessica Chapman, the manager of the coffee lounge, said that the Dav had originally decided on switching to compostable straws when they learned about the sip-cup lid, which doesn’t require a straw at all. The coffee shop made the change this summer.
“We were like, ‘We can cut the cost of straws altogether and, I think, start a bigger message on campus,’” Chapman said. “So we were like, ‘Why not?’ And we ordered them that week and then by the next week we had already went strawless.”
While eliminating straws does help businesses cut down on plastic waste, some individuals with physical disabilities need straws to drink beverages. Chapman said that the Dav hasn’t received any pushback for switching to the lids, and they do still have compostable straws on hand at all times should someone request a straw.
“I think that the people who reached out have been genuinely curious about how we were dealing with that, and that’s when we explain we will have straws on hand whenever necessary,” Chapman said.
She added that the Dav has also started offering reusable metal straws customers can buy.
“We just kind of encourage people who might require straws to get metal straws as that is sustainable,” Chapman said. “But it wasn’t really an issue, just because we knew whenever the situation presents itself, we’ll be fine.”
While the Dav’s efforts are an important step, it is not an immediate solution, according to Fossil Free AU.
“Let’s remember that plastic straws are only a nuisance among greater crimes against our environment,” the organization said in a statement to The Eagle. “Truly powerful environmental change comes from placing bans and regulations on industrial practices — not small coffee shops. Reducing one’s environmental impact through individual actions is not an option for everyone due to socio-economic circumstances.”
In terms of larger-scale efforts to become more sustainable, AU Dining is taking steps to offer environmentally friendly straws at all of its on-campus dining locations, according to Director of OneCard and Dining Services Ann Marie Powell.
“Our suppliers inform us that the product is marine degradable, compostable, elemental chlorine free, and always made in the USA,” Powell wrote in an email to The Eagle.
In terms of whether or not the on-campus Starbucks will start offering sip-cup lids, as the company announced in July that it would replace all straws with sip-cup lids by 2020, Powell said that AU Dining is working with Starbucks to determine that rollout.
“At the present time, we are working with our Starbucks representative to determine their actual rollout plan,” Powell said. “AU Starbucks works with the company to stay in the line of their initiatives. Usually, campus locations rollout fall behind corporate-owned locations.”
The AU Student Zero Waste Club, which works to achieve the University’s goal of sending zero waste to landfills and incineration, applauded the steps taken by both The Dav and AU’s dining locations.
“We definitely think that the Dav going strawless is a really important step for the university,” the group said in a statement. “Much of the Tavern and MGC has recently switched over to compostable straws as well, and it is reassuring to see the status quo becoming more and more eco-friendly between all of the campus buyers who purchase those types of goods.”
However, the club said it is aware there are other steps that must be taken protect the environment.
“While some may say that paying attention to straws is ignoring the bigger issues at play, we believe that it is a really important stepping stone,” the AU Student Zero Waste Club said. “Practicing environmentalism and learning about the bigger issues at play may stem from tiny bits of peaked interest like learning about why going strawless can be beneficial.”
Correction: This article has been corrected to reflect that AU Zero Waste doesn't work with AU's sustainability office.