Updated: Jun 15
Loyola’s STEP Water + EEC: Reducing Single Use Plastics in Edgewater Restaurants By: Alexa Agra, Polina Cherepkova, Graham Clute, Kathryn Mauery, and Sherelyn Venuso "As a group of five students from Loyola University Chicago’s Solutions to Environmental Problems: Water class, we completed a project in partnership with the EEC to reduce single-use plastics in Edgewater restaurants. Plastic pollution is dangerous to human, animal, and plant health, and as we continue our wasteful habits, the amount of plastic waste on Earth grows. Our goal as a group was to spread the importance of reducing single-use plastics to restaurants. Each of us visited two restaurants and presented a flier that we created to restaurant managers or owners. We asked them about their restaurant’s current single-use plastic practices and explained the importance of reducing single-use plastics. We also asked the restaurant manager or owner to display the flier where it would be a visible reminder to their staff." Below is the informative flier that was posted in each restaurant they visited:
Restaurants visited The ten local Edgewater restaurants that we visited were Uncommon Ground, Beard and Belly, Bettie Lou’s, Little Corner Restaurant, Metropolis Coffee, Rewired Pizza Cafe, Friends Ramen, Lyfe Kitchen, Flacos Tacos, and Edge of Sweetness. Student Reflections Sherelyn: The first restaurant I visited was Flacos Tacos. They currently use all single-use plastics except for their trays and margarita glasses. They used to have more reusable options but switched to single-use plastics because of COVID-19. The manager said he would consider switching back depending on the customer’s comfort level. The second restaurant I visited was the Edge of Sweetness Cafe. The only time the cafe uses plastics is when the customers order any kind of take out. Most of the cafe’s single use plastic is from plastic straws. The manager expressed interest in switching to compostable straws if the restaurant can find a way to make the switch financially feasible. Overall, the employees at both restaurants were happy to discuss their environmental impacts. I was somewhat surprised and happy to learn that many people in the community are willing to help the environment in any way they can. Alexa: The two restaurants I went to were Beard & Belly and Uncommon Ground. At Beard & Belly I talked to the owner of the restaurant. They are already using sustainable options, cardboard/paper containers and bags, their utensils are optional to the customer but are compostable. The next restaurant I visited was Uncommon Ground and they also had sustainable containers. They used cardboard or tin containers for their food. I also learned that this restaurant has been sustainable since they opened, they use vegetables from their rooftop garden and they also donate used fryer oil to be repurposed into biodiesel at Loyola University’s biodiesel lab. This experience has taught me a lot. I liked how I was able to explore other communities and learn about their own ways to be sustainable not only by reducing plastic use. Polina : The first restaurant that I visited was Lyfe Kitchen. From my visit I would say that Lyfe Kitchen is already proactive when it comes to sustainability. They stated that they value biodegradable, compostable and recyclable packaging, and try to avoid single-use plastic as best as they can. The second restaurant that I visited was Friends Ramen, for the most part they also try to avoid single-use plastic unless requested by the customer. Even Though Friends Ramen is not as focused on sustainability when compared to Lyfe Kitchen, they still express interest in becoming more sustainable and potentially cutting out single-use plastic all together. Graham: The restaurants I visited were Bettie Lou’s and Little Corner Restaurant. Bettie Lou’s uses biodegradable takeout containers, but plastic, non-renewable cups for drinks. Currently they don’t have plans for switching to a different drink cup in the future, but would consider using a paper straw. The second restaurant I visited was Little Corner Restaurant. Here they are using styrofoam takeout containers and cups, but after my visit they are considering switching to a more sustainable alternative. However, this restaurant mainly offers dine-in seating, so there aren’t as many takeout containers being used. Visiting these restaurants and discussing our project plan has taught me that the restaurant owners are very interested in switching to a more sustainable practice. I was also excited to talk about environmental issues with strangers, rather than other students who already know so much about the topic. Kathryn: I visited Metropolis Coffee and Rewired Pizza Cafe. Metropolis Coffee currently uses plastic cups for their cold beverages, but said that they were looking into non-plastic alternatives. Their biggest barrier to switching cups is cost, but they said they will continue research to weigh the cost of switching cups. Rewired Pizza Cafe is mostly dine-in, and their main disposable items are cardboard pizza boxes, so they have done a great job avoiding single-use plastics. They have plastic utensils, but only give them out upon request. This experience taught me how willing many restaurants are to listen to their consumers. I was a bit nervous to talk to management and present information that they may not be interested in, but I found that the restaurants were very receptive to my ideas and were happy to listen to everything I had to say. Moving forward This project was a great way to engage students with their surrounding community, all while spreading the importance of sustainability. This project opened up a new discussion of sustainability for many restaurants, and showed restaurants how much their customers care about sustainability. This project allowed us to use our own environmental knowledge to help spread sustainability to our surrounding community. This experience was rewarding, in the sense that every restaurant was willing to listen and evaluate their own sustainability practices. Moving forward, we would like to continue polling restaurants in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs about their single-use plastic use. Edgewater is a very eco-conscious neighborhood, so seeing how other neighborhoods react to sustainability efforts would be an interesting continuation of the project. We encourage you to reach out to your favorite local restaurants about their own single-use plastic practices!