Some Durango businesses are trying to reduce the amount of waste in the food service industry with the Bring It! Bring Your Own campaign.
Live Creation Studio along with Cream Bean Berry, Sew Alpine, WeFill and Live Creative Studio aim to reduce waste by encouraging people to bring their own cups, utensils and food containers when getting to-go orders from restaurants.
According to a 2015 study, about 60% of waste produced in Durango is food or other organic matter, much of which could be diverted from landfills.
“We’re kind of looking at managing and addressing the solutions with businesses and restaurants together around the increasing waste problem in our community,” said Live Creative Studio founder Claire Attkisson.
Beginning Monday, Bring It! Reusable Takeout Kits will be offered at multiple Durango locations, including Cream Bean Berry, WeFill, Durango Welcome Center, Durango Outdoor Exchange, Sage Farm Fresh Eats and Zia Taqueria.
Two different types of kits will be offered: a reusable utensils and straw kit, and a carrier and utensil set with a straw kit. Additionally, customers can purchase a collapsible cup and/or utensil carrier separately.
Cream Bean Berry and Durango Welcome Center have already started selling kits at their locations.
It is part of the effort to reduce waste, especially for the food service industry that offers takeout options where plastic is used.
The utensils are made from recycled shaving razors by WeFill, a company dedicated to creating products with zero waste.
“Sixteen billion. That’s the number of disposable cups used each year. But numbers that big can become overwhelming, so think one cup at a time and over time we’ll all make a huge impact,” said Cristin Salaz, owner of WeFill.
Attkisson hopes restaurants will get on board and allow customers to bring in their own containers.
Cream Bean Berry owner Katie Burford said she couldn’t ignore how much disposable waste is created through her ice cream shop. She hired Live Creative Studio to help market an incentive program in which customers could save money if they brought in a reusable cup or utensils.
“I’m offering incentives for customers who bring their own because I want everyone to experience how good it feels to make positive change,” she said. “And the fewer disposables people use, the fewer I have to buy.”
Allowing customers to bring in their own utensils or containers can be cost-effective for businesses because they end up purchasing fewer packaging materials. But Buford said she cares more about the cause than reducing costs. She offers a much larger discount for using reusable items than necessary to cover her expenses.
She offered 25 cents off the purchase price to customers who bring in their own straw, 50 cents to customers who bring their own spoon and $1 to customers who bring their own cup. She had 45 customers bring their own spoons during the last month.
“It’s something that we’re trying and piloting, and Cream Bean Berry, so far, is seeing a return on the investment of actually giving savings and encouraging people to go zero-waste,” Attkisson said.
The campaign wants to work with each restaurant to figure their costs for packaging and what the packaging is made of. Live Creative Studio plans to take that data and compare it to materials that are compostable to see whether restaurants can save money on packaging.
The campaign had to consider the health dangers associated with reusing kitchenware in the food service industry. But after discussing the logistics with heath officials, Cream Bean Berry was given approval because milkshakes would be poured into cups, not produced in the reusable cups. The same concept is true for restaurants that place to-go food in reusable containers.
“So there’s precautions that a restaurant has to take and we would educate them on that,” Attkisson said. “We did get confirmation that this is acceptable.”
The campaign has also been working with Table to Farm Compost to test compostable products.
“Waste in general is a huge issue,” said Table to Farm Managing Member Monique DiGiorgio. “Between 30 and 40%, of what gets thrown away, residential or commercial, is organic.”