Changing the world, one plastic straw at a time

Adrian Chappell wants to make Saskatoon a more sustainable city, and she’s starting with a battle against plastic straws.

Saskatoon restaurants choosing eco-friendly options over non-recyclable plastic straws

Collective Coffee was one of the first restaurants to show its support for the campaign to stop using plastic straws. (Submitted by Adrian Chappell/Facebook)

Adrian Chappell wants to make Saskatoon a more sustainable city, and she's starting with a battle against plastic straws.

Chappell is the bar manager of The Hollows and Primal, two restaurants in Saskatoon that haven't used plastic straws since they opened several years ago — and she wants more restaurants to get on board.

Her campaign started with an Instagram post, and she said almost a dozen restaurants reached out to her to show their support or ask how they can make the switch.

"There's been a flood of interest, to the point where I'm really looking for some more resources for those businesses because we don't have a ton of options in Saskatchewan as far as biodegradable goes," Chappell said.

Restaurants in cities across Canada have been joining the movement for years.

A plastic straw may seem like a small problem, but the straws add up. In the U.S. alone, more than 500 million plastic straws are thrown away every day.

Loraas Disposal Services, which manages the curbside recycling program in Saskatoon, says plastic straws are not recyclable.

Chappell says alternatives to plastic straws include biodegradable straws, reusable metal straws or simply not offering a straw with the drink. She also encourages customers to be proactive and ask their servers to skip the straw.

For Chappell, though, it's about more than just straws.

The restaurants she works at have made a commitment to reducing waste — the two restaurants share one garbage bin that's only picked up once a month — and she'd like to see Saskatoon residents and business owners pressure City Hall to make composting more accessible.

"Ideally, I would like to see Saskatoon more focused on sustainability as a city — not just in the restaurant industry, but across the board — and I think this is just one place that I can help and hopefully inspire others to follow suit."

Inspiring others

She's already inspired one business to make the switch: Collective Coffee on 20th Street.

Jackson Wiebe, director and founder of Collective Coffee, said plastics straws weren't on his radar until Chappell brought it to his attention.

"One of the big things we struggle with in our industry is the cost-prohibitive nature of switching to green products because they tend to be more expensive," he said.

"Every restaurant owner operates on very, very thin margins — so cost is crucial — and, in this case, the cost wasn't prohibitive for us."

What are the effects of that action when it's a population of a million or a hundred million or a billion people with the same behaviour?- Jackson Wiebe, director and founder of Collective Coffee

Wiebe said he sourced a biodegradable straw that was only marginally more expensive. And customers haven't noticed the change — he said there's no difference in terms of quality.

Switching away from plastic straws also fits with Collective Coffee's philosophy, Wiebe said. Since Collective Coffee opened in 2011, they've done what they can to reduce waste, including giving away used coffee grounds to local gardeners and using dry linguine as stir sticks.

Wiebe said he sees these efforts as part of a bigger picture.

"When you talk about the aggregated effect of something, what are the effects of that action when it's a population of a million or a hundred million or a billion people with the same behaviour?"

About the Author

Ashleigh Mattern

Ashleigh Mattern is a web writer and reporter with CBC Saskatoon. Email: ashleigh.mattern@cbc.ca