One year after the initiative to reduce drinking straws from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) dining locations, 70,000 straws have been eliminated since introducing the “sippy” lid in place of straws.
The numbers obtained through Bill McNamara, the executive director of Hospitality Services, show that since July 1 of last year, 26,000 straws have been purchased through the university, with 5,000 of those being paper straws.
In the year previous, the 2017-2018 calendar year, 96,800 straws were purchased, with 4,800 of them being paper. In all, the university went from using an average of 265 straws a day, to 71 across all their retail dining locations on the Durham campus.
“The cost increase/decrease is difficult to obtain as there are many factors and scenarios that could take place,” McNamara said about the money difference in eliminating the straws. “The cost of a straw equated the increase in cost for the lid, so the 70,000 fewer straws used would be cost neutral.”
However, McNamara made point to say that the main goal of the effort was to reduce the use and serve as a cost neutral alternative, not for the university to save money in eliminating a product.
The university’s commitment to reducing straws is one of the leading efforts in the state of New Hampshire, with the New Hampshire House of Representatives voting Mar. 20 to prohibit restaurants from serving plastic straws unless asked for (UNH does this, too), according to a Boston.com article.
At first, the switch to the new lids was admittedly “hard” for some students, according to Paul College’s CornerStone Café manager, Donna Aube, who added that since, students have adjusted “pretty good” to the change, but the new lids have been a challenge in themselves.
“Unfortunately, we are having issues with the lids not fitting the cups right now, so we have had to go back to the flat lids and straws until we can resolve the issue,” Aube said. “As you can imagine, now that we have given them straws again for a few days, they will be asking for them again when we go back to the other lids.”
But regardless, the effort of eliminating straws to Sustainability Project Director Jenn Andrews is a reminder that students, faculty and visitors on the campus, have power in both large and small ways to make a difference in the environment.
“We as Wildcats make simple choices every day (to ask for a straw or not), we inevitable have an impact on the people and ecosystems around us, either positive or negative,” Andrews said.
She explained that recycling and composting are important for keeping waste out of landfills. In fact, many students, in response to the change, have bought their own metal straws, as noted by Aube.
“The crux of the effort to get to ‘zero waste’ is to generate less waste in the first place,” Andrews said. “It’s so gratifying to see a successful initiative here at UNH to do just that.”