ALLIANCE, Ohio - The University of Mount Union’s commitment to sustainability runs deep—from the creation of the Sustainability Management Advisory Committee (SMAC) in 2010, to Mount Union’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality, and the sustainability minor that will be offered beginning in fall 2019, Mount continues to adopt sustainable initiatives.
A recent sustainable initiative, spearheaded by the Green Raiders (Mount Union’s sustainability student-worker group), is a community outreach campaign with local businesses to eliminate straw usage. While other restaurants expressed interest, none were quite as enthusiastic as Grinders Above and Beyond.
Grinders, a Canton-area chain restaurant that serves American entrees, expressed immediate interest in the campaign and decided to partner with the Green Raiders to eliminate the use of straws in all seven of their locations. Grinders is taking this straw campaign even further by providing their customers with information about plastic pollution.
The Green Raiders are providing each Grinders location with specially designed trifold table toppers that display information about the harmful effects of straws. In this way, Grinders is not only eliminating their use of plastic straws, but also educating their customers as to why they are doing so. The Green Raiders have also provided Grinders with information about sustainable plastic straw alternatives, such as paper or metal straws.
“It’s exciting and rewarding to see the work we do on campus have such an impact in the surrounding area,” said Alejandra Twiss ‘21, a sophomore geology major from Louisville. “I’m glad that this partnership will not only eliminate any unnecessary plastic from people’s dining experience, but also educate them about why plastic straws are such a negative.”
How many tons of plastic are dumped in oceans every year?
The UMU Green Raiders and Grinders aren’t alone in their desire to change the way people view these plastics. Large companies like Disney, Starbucks and American Airlines are all in the process of banning plastic straws.
“Straw bans alone are not going to save the oceans, but they just might be the spark that ignites much-needed conversations about the level of non-biodegradable pollution that exists in our environment today,” said Jamie Greiner, Mount Union’s sustainability and campus outreach manager.
Americans use 182.5 trillion straws every year, an astronomical amount, and most of these straws end up in our oceans. Plastic straws are too lightweight to be recycled, so they are often littered or blown out of overflowing trash cans. With this straw elimination movement coming to the Grinders locations in Alliance, Canton, Hartville, Dover, Louisville, Minerva and North Canton, the Mount Union and Grinders partnership provides hope to play at least a small role in reducing this figure.
“Straws are far from the biggest problem when it comes to plastic pollution in our oceans and waterways,” said Greiner. “However, many activists, including the Green Raiders, hope that straws will be a ‘gateway plastic’ - inspiring people to eliminate other single-use plastics from their daily lives, like bags and bottles.”
Aaron Davis, a manager at the Grinders restaurant in Alliance, agrees with this sentiment.
“Grinders is already taking steps to go green, so participating in this straw elimination campaign feels very natural,” said Davis. “Grinders wants to help raise awareness about environmental problems and help get the word out about what people can do to conserve, so this straw campaign serves as a phenomenal way to do just that.”
To learn more about sustainability at Mount Union and Mount Union’s Green Raiders, visit mountunion.edu/sustainability.