By Courtney Hibler
Earth Day is right around the corner, and Youngstown businesses are starting to show their support for the environment by making efforts to go green.
Using paper straws, discontinuing the use of napkins, making carry out containers compostable and providing recycle bins are just a few ways local restaurants are starting to recognize the going green concept.
Kristina Urick, an employee at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, said the restaurant has eliminated beverage napkins and now uses boxes and straws made from plants.
“These items are now compostable,” she said. “We also ask guests if they would like a straw, and this helps eliminate their carbon footprint one step at a time.”
According to the Firebirds website, the company goes even further and uses sustainably harvested wood, recycles their fryer oil and fat drippings from chicken, chicken wings and ribs, uses carpeting from repurposed materials and recycles crayons and wine corks.
Dan Kuzma, manager of the Youngstown State University Recycling Program, said eliminating waste at the source, or choosing products made from sustainable resources helps reduce unnecessary waste being generated.
“Recycling markets have been rough for the past few years,” he said. “It got worse as contamination became a bigger problem in the Mahoning County, and I believe these businesses are taking a step in the right direction.”
In Kuzma’s opinion, Ely’s To Go, a vegan restaurant located in Boardman, is one of the best “green” businesses in the area.
He said Ely’s has source reduction strategies in place, offer containers and packaging made from sustainable resources, offer incentives to customers to reduce waste by bringing reusable containers and they recycle compost.
“Ely’s also provides plant-based food and use much of their produce from local farmers,” he said.
Cultivate: A Co-op Cafe in Youngstown has been utilizing green products for quite some time.
Susan Payton, manager of Cultivate and part-time human ecology faculty member at YSU, said the cafe does the best it can when it comes to utilizing green products.
“Our smoothie cups and carry out containers are compostable,” she said. “We also compost our vegetable trimmings, and we have a local farmer who will be managing the compost pile for use on their farm.”
Jessica Neral, a junior hospitality management major, said she has been to Cultivate and believes the cafe is providing an important stance other businesses should follow.
“Far too often we see a good amount of recyclables being thrown away or not taken care of properly,” she said. “Seeing these restaurants use compostable items and eliminating straws is refreshing to see because the use of plastic is becoming a problem.”
As far as YSU recycling goes, Kuzma said it has improved over the years, but contamination is still an issue.
“Most people know what can and cannot be recycled, but there are always waste items out there that seem like they can be recycled but can’t be,” he said. “A targeted education is the best solution when it comes to recycling.”