For the last 10 years, Northern Arizona University has made advancements in the way of sustainability, and its most recent effort is the removal of plastic straws from Campus Dining beverage stations.
Following the national trend to reduce the use of plastic straws, NAU will now offer 100 percent compostable straws made of cornstarch to patrons upon request only, said Casey Fisher, NAU Campus Dining's director of strategic planning and marketing.
“For the most part, people are pretty accepting of it,” she said of the removal of plastic straws. “And honestly, there’s been enough media attention to the straw-less issue that people don’t seem to be caught off guard.”
Fisher said Campus Dining hopes the removal of plastic straws might help students to make more sustainable decisions when it comes to other plastic products.
“It really comes down to the hierarchy in sustainability: reduce, reuse, recycle,” she said. “Reusing and recycling are great, but the best thing we can do is reduce consumption of plastic materials. So if we can get people to rethink using a plastic straw, they might start to question if they really need to use that plastic lid on their cups.”
Starting this month, both Starbucks locations at NAU are using compostable cups and cold-drink sippy lids, which eliminate the need for a straw. The university will be working with suppliers to adopt the lids at other locations on campus as soon as possible.
According to a release from NAU Campus Services and Activities, Starbucks, on-campus locations that serve Starbucks, and retail smoothie locations will offer reusable cups for hot and cold drinks.
Campus Services and Activities Director TC Eberly said NAU expects the cups -- made by reusable container company Ozzi -- to bring significant reductions to the overall campus waste stream and hopefully improve campus cleanliness.
Fisher said the initial cost for a reusable cup is $5. After the cups are used, students return them to machines and receive a token they will trade in for another reusable cup at no cost the next time they buy a coffee or smoothie.
“We take care of the cups,” she said. “We clean them, we replace broken lids, and the students don’t have to carry empty, dirty cups across campus.”
NAU’s catering department also made changes to its practices this fall by eliminated all disposable cutlery, flatware and tableware from events held at both the University Union and duBois South Union.
This move started out as a voluntary pilot project at the University Union last year, and user feedback encouraged staff to adopt it in both locations for this academic year.
“This program will continue to expand as appropriate with the goal to reduce all plastic flatware and tableware for catered events on campus if possible,” Eberly said.
Over the last several years, NAU has made strides in becoming more sustainable and reducing its carbon footprint by implementing Ozzi reusable containers at its dining halls and Somat food composting systems at both the north and south dining facilities, which have virtually eliminated all food waste being sent to the landfill or water treatment system.