Styro-Free Marquette plans future efforts

Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series on Styro-Free Marquette. The first part of the series ran as last Monday’s Living Green article.

MARQUETTE — Styro-Free Marquette is preparing for the next steps toward making its dream a reality after holding an initial meeting for area residents, business owners and local officials at Peter White Public Library June 5.

Styro-Free Marquette, a grassroots effort started by Ron Carnell, aims to reduce the use of expanded polystyrene foam — commonly referred to as Styrofoam — containers in local restaurants.

Organizers aren’t looking for a ban on the substance in Marquette. Rather, they’re encouraging local businesses to voluntarily swap their to-go containers for those made with more environmentally-friendly materials, Carnell said.

To do this, Styro-Free Marquette organizers are working to educate area residents, officials and business owners on the impacts of using to-go containers made of the material — and how pursuing alternatives can help human health, the environment and maybe even their pocketbooks.

“We will continue to push forward to use a peer pressure approach for restaurants and coffee shops not already using alternatives to Styrofoam,” Carnell said in an email. “As I have noted all along, there is almost no resistance to this effort, and everyone recognizes the need to make the switch. It’s just the follow-through that needs a little more work.”

The event June 5 was the beginning of the group’s educational efforts for the public, featuring speakers who offered a variety of perspectives and ways to approach the issue, including: Marquette City Commissioner Jenn Hill; Sonia Stucko, owner of Stucko’s Pub and Grill in Marquette; Kristen Carlson, Citizens’ Climate Lobby chapter leader; April Elizabeth Lindala, director of Native American Studies at Northern Michigan University; and John Thomson of the Marquette Senior High School Student Council.

The meeting allowed Carnell and the speakers to connect with area residents, local officials, business owners and others on the issue, he said, noting that the meeting “exceeded expectations.”

“I now have info for 100-plus people who can be on the ground floor to keep Marquette focused on protecting Lake Superior,” Carnell said.

The event also helped Carnell connect with two candidates who are running for the Marquette City Commission, Evan Bonsall and Andrew Lorinser, who have “pledged their help to form a committee,” for Styro-Free Marquette, Carnell said.

In the coming weeks, Carnell plans to meet with Lorinser and Bonsall to discuss “forming a committee, getting some fundraising going and a timeline of activities,” he said.

He’s also hoping to begin outreach efforts for the project and aims to use public service announcements to spread the word about Styro-Free Marquette, with one or two volunteers coordinating the marketing campaign.

For those who are looking to get involved in the effort, there are multiple ways the issue can be addressed, Carnell said.

“We’re asking patrons of their favorite eateries to always ask for alternative to-go containers, and never miss an opportunity to ask if they are considering choosing biodegradable,” he said.

One of the simplest, yet most important things that can be done, Carnell said, is to speak with staff at local restaurants about the issue.

“If they still use foam containers, encourage them to bring the issue up at their next staff meeting,” Carnell said. “Let them know of the restaurants that have switched, and how it has not affected overhead to any challenging extent. And that prices are still affordable, portions the same as always. If they’ve made the switch, show gratitude: ‘I knew your restaurant was talking about it, welcome aboard!'”

Once the group has engaged area restaurants, Carnell hopes to expand the effort to larger entities in the area.

“After eateries and all coffee shops are on board, we plan to approach big institutions, like Marquette (Area) Public Schools and UP Health System,” he said. “We really are just getting started.”

Carnell looks forward to continuing the effort, he said, as there’s still “lots of work ahead.”

“Marquette wants this, and we’ll stay in touch with our great community,” Carnell said.

For more information on Styro-Free Marquette and how to get involved, visit www.styrofreemarquette.org/ or email info@styrofreemarquette.org.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.