Telegraph eateries urged to cut waste, embrace ‘reusable’

In anticipation of Earth Week, sustainability-minded UC Berkeley students are gathering signatures and organizational endorsements for a campaign designed to help “make ‘reusable’ a reality on Telegraph,” as they put it.

Maggie Hardy

Berkeley senior Maggie Hardy (UC Berkeley photo by Cathy Cockrell)

Their petition calls on Southside food businesses to provide discounts of 10 cents or more to customers who provide their own cups, utensils and containers during the days before and after Earth Day, April 22. Participating businesses would also make takeout bags available solely on request, and would post signage, provided by students, to advertise the discount.

By means of this “small, short-term ask” to business owners and managers, the students’ Telegraph Green Business Project aims to encourage eateries near campus to institute sustainable practices, and ultimately to attain green-business certification, says campaign coordinator Maggie Hardy, a fourth-year student.

Disposable food packaging accounts for much of the litter on Telegraph Avenue and a large percentage of the campus’s waste stream, she says. And it’s one of the biggest hurdles that UC Berkeley must overcome if it’s to meet its ambitious target of zero waste by 2020.

If we can’t tackle this challenge, “we’re going to be stuck for a long time,” she predicts.

squirrel in full trash can

Trash from Telegraph Avenue food vendors accounts for much of the waste found in Sproul Plaza landfill bins.

As part of the Earth Week campaign, student interns will monitor disposable-cup usage at Telegraph eateries offering the discount, and then estimate how many cups (and thus dollars) those establishments could save by permanently switching to compostable or recyclable products.

Students hope to gather signatures until March 21, leaving them a month until the campus’s observation of Earth Week, April 20-25, to do concentrated outreach to businesses.

To support the green-business campaign, which is part of the student-funded Green Initiative Fund (TGIF), see the online petition for individuals and the endorsement form for campus organizations.

For more information, email telegraphgreen at lists.berkeley.edu.