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Restaurants go green
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Four local restaurants have pledged to become more eco-friendly by taking steps such as using recyclable to-go containers and switching from plastic straws.
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Pictured making a pledge to go eco-friendly, from left, are Diane Stanley, Collins River BBQ general manager Jim Richter, Kimmi’s Tea Room owner Mark Taylor and Tea Room server Calleb Capshaw, Viola’s Pizza Company owner Brian Covert, and Mary Don Bixby.

Local restaurants are serving up a side of environmental sensibility. 

The owners of Collins River BBQ, Viola’s Pizza Company, Kimmi’s Tea Room, and La Cazona Mexican Restaurant have all agreed to take steps toward being more eco-friendly by, among other things, using recyclable to-go containers, switching from plastic straws to paper ones, and asking customers if they need plastic utensils rather than just tossing them into the bag.

“We have been contacting local restaurants and asking them to consider ways to reduce their environmental impact,” said Diane Stanley. “These businesses were the first ones to agree to make changes.” 

Stanley, Mary Don Bixby and Susan McKirter are members of Ben Lomond Garden Club. The trio, who have affectionately named themselves The Environmental Three, are advocates of being more environmentally conscious and spearheading the club’s effort to bring businesses on board in the eco-friendly push. 

“We offer both plastic and paper straws,” said Collins River BBQ general manager Jim Richter. “We wanted to make the change to paper permanently. When we started giving paper straws some people didn’t like them and some did. To try and please as many patrons as we can, we have both. We try and explain to them this change is good for the environment. The change will happen, but it might take time.”

The business also buys local produce as much as possible to reduce its carbon footprint and support local farmers. 

Brian Covert, who owns Viola’s Pizza Company with his wife Sara, said the business has completely transitioned from plastic straws to paper and customer reaction has been good.

“All our carryout boxes are recyclable,” said Covert. “We did transition over to paper straws here recently. No more plastic straws. Some people say that if they sit there too long, they get a little soggy. However, we’ve gotten more positive compliments from people than I expected. Our customers are very supportive of our efforts to protect the environment as much as we can.” 

The business has also stop using Styrofoam to-go cups.

“I don’t know if we can make a big difference on our own, but everyone working together can make an impact,” said Covert.

Mark Taylor, who owns Kimmi’s Team Room with his wife Kimmi, says all to-go orders are sent in recyclable materials.

“All our to-go boxes are recyclable,” said Taylor. “We have a lot of straws, so we have to get rid of them before we go to paper straws. We have about 6,000 plastic straws. At the moment, we are not giving out straws. We are asking customers if they want a straw, rather than just giving them one. You have to start somewhere.”

La Cazona Mexican Restaurant has instructed its employees to ask customers if they want a straw, rather than just giving them one. 

All the businesses are also attempting to reduce the use of plastic cutlery with to-go orders. Employees will start asking if they are needed. 

“About 95 percent of the people who get an order to go are going home or back to work,” said Bixby. “They have access to re-useable cutlery there and the plastic ones will likely be throw away. If they aren’t needed, why give them? It doesn’t hurt to ask first.”

Plastic is a substance the earth cannot digest and neither can people or animals. 

According to Plastic Pollution Coalition statistics, plastic litter from takeout orders – including cups, plates, cutlery, and straws – is a prime source of the estimated 269,000 tons of plastic pollution swept into waterways and oceans, where they partially degrade, harming marine life and affecting human health. 

Other statistics:

More than 100 million pieces of plastic utensils are used by Americans every day. They can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, leaking harmful substances into the earth while they are breaking down. 

An estimated 500 million plastic straws are thrown away in the U.S. every day. 

The use of polystyrene foam has serious health consequences and it is not biodegradable. 

Recycling waste materials is better than landfilling them, but the best option is to not generate waste at all.

Less than 14 percent of plastic packaging, the fastest-growing segment of the packaging industry, in the U.S. gets recycled.

Club members aren’t requesting abrupt changes. 

“We are really hoping that other restaurants get involved in this,” said Stanley. “Determine what gets used by your customers and what doesn’t. If customers aren’t using it, it’s a waste of money for the restaurant to provide it. Because the majority of plastic utensils and straws aren’t recycled, they will end up in a landfill.” 

The businesses were presented certificates to be placed by their registers to make customers aware they are taking steps to say “yes to less” and be more environmentally friendly.