As part of the University’s ongoing efforts to minimize its environmental impact, Columbia Dining will stop using plastic straws and will fully transition to compostable paper straws beginning fall 2018.
The decision to use biodegradable straws comes at a time when cities, restaurants, hotels, and even Queen Elizabeth II, have banned single-use plastic straws. As part of its transition, Columbia Dining will also replace compostable petroleum cups, currently used for cold to-go beverages, with compostable plastic cups made entirely from plants.
Food service corporation Aramark, which handles operations for of all Barnard College’s dining halls, has also announced plans to phase out plastic straws and stirrers in most of its locations starting in September. According to a Barnard spokesperson, the college will be working with Aramark to eliminate the use of plastic straws and eventually move away from all single-use plastics.
These changes by the University are central to its Sustainability Plan, announced last April, which outlines a set of goals to reduce Columbia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent in 2050. In the past, Columbia Dining has undertaken a number of other sustainable initiatives, including a partnership with the Doe Fund to recycle 4,000 gallons of cooking oil annually, and participation in New York City’s Department of Sanitation composting pilot program.
In 2016, Columbia Dining was recognized as a Level 1 Green Restaurant certified organization, an award given to restaurants that meet environmentally friendly standards in categories such as water efficiency and reusables.
According to the University’s first annual progress report for its sustainability plan, Columbia has reached many of its major milestones in reducing waste, one of the plan’s five main areas of focus. The report details plans to divert organics, textiles, and electronics from the waste stream, as well as further reduce overall plastic usage.
Earlier this month, the University also replaced the diesel shuttle buses in its campus shuttle network with six electric buses.