VPIRG & VBSR Team Up Against Single Use Plastic

VPIRG and VBSR joined restaurant and bar owners last week to kick off a statewide campaign aimed at reducing the number of single-use plastic straws used and thrown away in Vermont.
The owners of restaurants, bars and other establishments serving beverages that often come with straws as a matter of course are being invited to take the “Straws Upon Request” pledge.
“This modest shift in policy could make a big difference in cutting the use of plastic straws used in Vermont,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, which is sponsoring the pledge. “This could be the first step toward making people think differently about single-use plastics more generally and the availability of alternatives.”
“Plastic straws have become an ingrained part of our dining and drinking culture. I was amazed at how complex this issue can really be. When it really comes down to it though, it is a small mindset change in comparison to the enormous impact that straws have on our global environment,” said VBSR member Rachel Vanderberg, who owns Sun and Ski Inn and Suites and Stowe Bowl, and who led the organizing effort in Stowe.
Also speaking at today’s event was Milo Cress, founder of the Be Straw Free Campaign, which has a partnership with Eco-Cycle. Cress started the campaign in Vermont in 2011 when he was just 9 years old. “Here’s the thing,” Cress said. “This planet isn’t a place that we’ll inherit at some point, far off in the distant future. We live here right now and share responsibility for it already. Vermont was a great place to kick this project off, and I’m glad to see this effort take it to the next level.”
“At Stonecutter Spirits we believe smart environmental product choices are paramount to running a sustainable business,” said Sas Stewart, Co-founder, Director of Strategy at Stonecutter Spirits, and member of the VBSR board. “At our Middlebury Tasting Room and our new Burlington cocktail bar Highball Social, we switched to reusable straws as a way to address the problem with single use plastics and lower our environmental impact.”
“Since we’re a brewery and we primarily serve our craft mead, it was natural for us not to provide straws with any beverages unless they were requested. We keep a small supply of straws for people who have a disability which makes it hard for them to drink from a cup,” said Kelly Klein, Owner and CEO Groennfell Meadery and Havoc Mead, Colchester’s Mead Hall. Klein also serves on VBSR’s Public Policy Committee.
Vermonters aren’t alone in tackling the problem of plastic straws. Numerous restaurants and municipalities across the country have established “straws upon request” policies, similar to the pledge now being promoted statewide in Vermont. Taking matters a step further, cities such as Seattle, Vancouver, and Malibu have banned plastic straws, and New York City could soon join them.
Establishments that have taken the pledge so far include VBSR members Colchester’s Mead Hall (Colchester), duo Restaurant & the Lounge (Brattleboro), Stowe Bowl (Stowe), and ZenBarn (Waterbury Center).