Your Green Life: Duluth businesses reduce plastic, straws use


DULUTH, MN– Plastic pollution, it’s something most people are aware of but don’t consciously think about day-to-day.

Some scientist estimate nearly 500 million plastic straws are used every day in the United States, 7.5 million of which end up polluting our nation’s shorelines.

Banning plastic straws has become a worldwide movement within cities and businesses in order to help reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills and waterways.

Director of Business Development for Grandma’s Restaurant Co.  Tony Bronson says, “we know that there has been a lot of talks out there about whether it be plastic specifically or to-go materials, styrofoam those types of things. People have concerns, people are becoming more and more aware of the long-term, sometimes negative effects those things can have on our environment, our landfills, on human beings.”

The Duluth Local Restaurant Association or DLRA is made up of near 20 restaurants and aims to reduce the amount of plastic they use daily while being a voice for the industry. Bronson says, “we’re trying to be proactive and be responsive to these folks and we’re looking at ways that we can reduce, reuse, recycle. You know  the holy trinity.”

He says the issue is, plastic works. “We’re looking at our plastic straws, we’re looking at our to-go containers, and looking for if there aren’t alternatives for them, how we can kind of work around those and eliminate the need for them.”

Alternatives like asking customers if they would like a straw rather than just handing them one.  “Right now we’re trying to make it an option to for them and sometimes it just brings awareness to them where they kind of go, no straw? Well, why is that?”

And it’s not just restaurants in Duluth taking the sustainable route, The Ripple Bar in Canal Park is the only business along the strip to be completely plastic free.

President of the Ripple Bar, Maggie Gustafson says, “we do the paper straws and we also ask our customers right away they’d like a straw before we even hand it over. It’s about 50/50 if they want one or not. So we do have the paper and no plastic what-so-ever.”

The bar also delivers paperless receipts to customers, offering them through email or text.

Gustafson says it’s deep-rooted in their business. “I mean I think we are definitely going to do everything we can to be as sustainable as and as green as possible because it’s just something that’s very important to us as far as our business goes.”

Some say,  straw bans alone probably won’t solve anything, but these local businesses are hoping maybe it’s a start.

“There is always trash around it seems like on the lake and even when you just like walk out in a parking lot and back. It’s almost devastating when you see the straws from other businesses or you know coffee cups, the styrofoam its just you know, We’re trying to keep Duluth beautiful and clean and I think we’re just doing the best we can to do our part,” says Gustafson.

Grandma’s restaurants use 1.3. million straws a year. They are hoping to reduce that number using this new initiative.

The Ripple Bar encourages other businesses to follow their lead in ridding plastic straws as a whole for the benefit of the community and environment.

Jessie Slater

Jessie Slater

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