Sustainability Solutions for Local Business?

Sustainability when theorized is beneficial in many aspects although it is hard to find balance between being economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. When looking into the sustainability methods of a local and popular diner, Mauro’s Cafe, it was apparent just how difficult that balance can be within a small business. Initially our intentions were to try to eliminate the use of styrofoam within the diner. Styrofoam is one of the more harmful materials used on the planet as it is a plastic which takes over 500 years to decompose. The light material is difficult to recycle causing it to crowd landfills and roadsides. Styrofoam is not only harmful to the environment, but also to the workers manufacturing the styrofoam and to consumers drinking from it. With styrofoam being utilized only for single use in the form of cups and to-go containers, the problem became obvious to us. We began by speaking with the head chef at Mauro’s, Dean Lewis. He stated “Everybody wants to be sustainable, but it just becomes too difficult”, which altered our perspective on how to create change. There was no simplicity to it. When a environmental friendly container costs $1.50 compared to a $0.12 styrofoam container, it is difficult to stay sustainable. Increase in pricing for containers leads to the increase in pricing for food as well, which inhibits Mauro’s ability to compete with other local restaurants when their prices are significantly lower. Another alternative we searched for was glass or plastic cups that could be washed and reused, although problematic plumbing immediately dismissed the idea. It became seemingly impossible to make a business sustainable on a budget. Our final idea was sustainable loyalty cards. Our hope was to incorporate loyalty cards into Mauro’s to promote reusable mugs and cups and in result, reduce the amount of styrofoam being disposed of. The cards would allow any customer to purchase any beverage required that they bring their own cup. Loyalty programs have been practiced in many businesses both large scale and local. Many capitalizing companies use loyalty programs on cards as well as online, which have greatly increased their sale percentages. However, programs such as these are often large scaled and used by big companies such as Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Rite Aid. The loyalty program we hope to implement would not only promote regular customers but also sustainability starting at a small scale by encouraging reusable cups.

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