Friday, May 20, 2022

LETTER: Restaurants should work to become greener

A few weeks ago, I had a sudden epiphany that the restaurant I was working at, a place where I have spent my entire college career, is throwing away colossal amounts of materials that could easily be recycled.

After coming to this realization, I decided to embark on mission to find out what other restaurants in the area were doing with their waste. I visited a site at each of the major food hubs in the Greater Lansing area, and what I found was not the comfort that I expected.

Some restaurants do a good job of limiting their contribution to the general landfill load, like McAlister’s Deli in Eastwood Towne Center, for example. They recycle their cardboard and some plastic, when possible. But others do not.

Specifically, one filled an 8-yard dumpster twice a week with more than 30 12-foot-3-inch cardboard boxes. And as helpful as these establishments are in contributing to the employment and economic growth in the area, they are doing little to keep their environmental impact in check.

A proper business should always strive to maximize their social and economic impact, while keeping the environmental impact to a minimum. Hope isn’t lost for these sandwich shops though. There’s still time to implement a change and start reducing waste while increasing diversion of recyclable products.

The first step is for them to call their local landlord and see if there is a way to change the current policy. If the landlord or property services provider will not help bear the load of the costs to improve waste management, then it will be time for that individual company to act on their own. From there, each establishment should contact their garbage disposal company and get a quote for the upgraded service package.

Granger, the provider for most of the East Lansing area, offers four different options for the commercial cardboard receptacles — each size tailored for that business’s need. From there, they can add in the “Bag It” service and take another step closer to becoming better businesses.

You, as the consumer, have the ultimate power. You may not feel as though you have the power to uplift or bring down an entire franchise just with your choice of purchases, but if you, and then a friend, and then a couple more friends, and then an apartment floor, and then that complex, and then that block, and then that neighborhood, all decided to change then you can, in fact, be a part of the change — if not the leading edge of a movement.

The next time you want to venture over to Subway or Potbelly Sandwich Shop for a bite to eat, take a look out back first and then ask the person working behind the counter what they do to be more friendly to the local environment. I’m not demanding that you boycott these establishments, but if it comes down to a tie between one who does makes a difference, and one who adds to the problem, start choosing the restaurant that is trying do the right thing.

If you make the choice and are vocal about it then your thought will spread and pretty soon natural selection will favor the business that adapts with change.

The next time you judge a place for its prices or food, decide too if they could do more to take care of cardboard, metal and glass.

Carson Letot is an environmental studies and agriscience senior at MSU.

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