One Sustainable Step: Burgess Begins Using Strawless Lids
With warm weather approaching, more people are making their annual switch from their hot beverages to iced coffees and teas. One noticeable change this year though, is that when people pick up their iced drink from the Burgess counter, there is no longer a straw. John Winnek, Supervisor of Retail Operations, and Elodie Linck ‘21, a member of Environmental Action Club and the Sustainability Committee, initiated the switch to strawless lids. The pair spoke about the implementation, and Justine Bolling ’22, a student worker in Burgess spoke about the reactions she’s seen from students.
The process of getting the lids onto campus was rather simple. Linck explained that her and another student were brainstorming ideas for decreasing waste on campus, and Linck remembered what she saw when she spent the summer in New York City. “Almost all the Starbucks there had the [strawless] lids,” said Linck. Starbucks is aiming to get rid of straws in their stores, and Linck realized that this might be a solution for Skidmore’s campus, so she reached out to John Winnek in Dining Services. Winnek quickly ordered the new strawless lids, which are now available in Burgess Café and in the Atrium Café.
Customers have been largely excited about the shift. Burgess went through the first shipment of 1,000 lids in only a few days, leaving them to revert to straws for a few days until the next batch came in. Winnek, who is responsible for purchasing the lids, explained that he has adapted “to meet the demands of the lids and the amount of cold drinks we are selling with the warmer weather.” Bolling noticed that several customers were unaware of the switch but were fascinated when they received the new lid on their drinks. She also explained that a decent amount of people still ask for straws with their drinks.
While the switch to strawless lids is technically reducing the number of straws used, it is actually increasing overall plastic use. The old straw and lid combo is less plastic than the new strawless style, but “the benefit is that straws are not recyclable, but these lids are, so you’re getting rid of that un-recyclable plastic,” said Bolling. Besides recyclability, Linck also focused on the impact that straws have on wildlife. “A lot of sea animals can get [straws] lodged in their system,” she explained. Winnek estimates that Burgess uses around 50,000 straws per year, so the new lids will help decrease that number.
Disposable straws will still be available upon request for the time being, but eventually will be phased out. Winnek explained that he “recently purchased steel re-usable straws to sell across campus at a cost of only three dollars,” which will hopefully provide an alternative for those who prefer straws or for those who find it difficult to drink from the new lids. The reusable straws will be available soon.
Overall, Linck wants people to remember that “if there’s something you want to change, just ask.” She explained that the whole process was much easier than she thought it’d be, so she encourages people “to just ask.”