Dare to Dime: A TR Campaign to End Styrofoam Use
by Lacey Eibert Keigley
Like so many others before it, this good idea was born through collaboration with a student and a teacher and a citizen.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
At first it was a conversation about the use of styrofoam in businesses and restaurants as a whole. About the inability to recycle the styrofoam. About what could be done locally about a problem impacting so much globally.
It was conversation between a teacher at Travelers Rest High School and Brandy Amidon, TR Mayor Pro Tem and one of the two co-founders and leaders behind the group Let’s Keep TR Beautiful.
And then it was a latte.
“Tandem had a Friday night event,” Brandy recalls, as we share a crepe in the aforementioned restaurant, in fact. “And I had latte, which I should not have had at night because I was awake all night long.” She laughs and helps her young daughter finish off the whipped creme on her waffle. That latte and the lack of sleep it brought on created the perfect opportunity to ponder the styrofoam conversation and dilemma locally. “I was up all night just thinking about it,” she smiles.
“What if we asked businesses to dare to stop using styrofoam, to make a choice,” Brandy begins. “What if businesses even dared their customers to be charged more in order to provide a styrofoam-free restaurant choice?” Because the reason so many restaurants and businesses order styrofoam is simple – its cost is significantly lower than that of other choices and products.
Why is styrofoam such a big deal, anyway, you might wonder. It can’t be recycled. It contains petroleum. It never breaks down. There’s just no way to get rid of it.
Brandy’s idea was to give the consumers the choice to make the change – to give the power of influence to the consumer as opposed to banning something from the restaurants and business owners.
The next step – after her sleepless night – was to meet with Victoria Chance – the high school teacher with whom the conversations started – and a group of her students. (They met at Leopard Forest – spreading the coffee love around town.) The group of students and Brandy and Mrs. Chance brainstormed ideas and ran a few numbers and figured out that a dime was a good representative number for the increased cost of replacing styrofoam with a more environmentally friendly option.
“It’s a number to quantify the idea that – as a consumer – I will pay more to go this restaurant knowing there is this option.”
And Dare to Dime began in earnest.
A list of qualifiers was established for the restaurants choosing to participate. The idea is to make the process possible for business owners. A survey has been created to help businesses see where they fall in the styrofoam usage. And it’s not a challenge limited to restaurants – but also a challenge to churches and organizations, any group that gathers and uses styrofoam at those gatherings.
The qualifiers for participants includes the following:
- Use NO polystyrene (aka…Styrofoam) – ZERO, ZIP, NADA
- Over 75% of ‘To Go’ products must be paper based or made of biodegradable material (corn) over recyclable plastic based on weight.
- Emphasis on paper products (do not use plastic coated paper products).
- Ratio of paper/biodegradable products must exceed 75% over plastic products. For example, hot cups, sleeves, plates, napkins are paper based. Cold cups, straws, lids would be recyclable plastic.
- Businesses must regularly recycle in house and/or have space available for customers to recycle.
- All cardboard boxes are recycled.
- Businesses will be required to answer a short survey every year to prove compliance with Dare to Dime.
This list is comprehensive and challenging, but Let’s Keep TR Beautiful serves as helpers to make these requirements possible. They work together with the business to look at areas of weakness or struggle and to provide ways to manage those areas.
To get the idea out in a simple and user friendly format Brandy met with the staff at Community Media and they worked to put together a video that expresses the heart behind the Dare to Dime campaign.
To watch the video – visit The Let’s Keep TR Beautiful Facebook page.
“Ultimately – our reason why is because we all want to create a better world, to improve our world for our children,” Brandy says.
When a business has accepted the Dare to Dime challenge and has made their business compliant, they’ll be recognized with a Dare to Dime sticker displayed in their window.
(And, fun fact, the sticker design idea came from one of Mrs. Chance’s high school students – Jessica Barger. After Jessica’s idea, Sean Madden from Brains On Fire lent his professional skills to completing the design in its final form.)
The first business to take the challenge and to officially be declared in the Dare to Dime campaign is Tandem – where their latte inspired the idea in the first place.
Feel inspired and encouraged to ditch the styrofoam?
Here’s a few things you, the consumer, can do:
The next time you visit Tandem, say thank you. Mention the Dare to Dime sticker and the campaign and let them know you think it’s valuable and you’re glad they’re spending the extra dimes (and dollars) to bring you styrofoam free choices.
When you see a restaurant using styrofoam, dare them to make a change. Send a message to Let’s Keep TR Beautiful and ask them to dare that business to begin the process to cut styrofoam out. (They have the resources to help a business walk through the elimination process.)
If you’re a business owner or you participate in an organization that uses styrofoam, take the dare yourself. Seek assistance and start with the steps to change.
Dare to Dime – another way that we can all help keep TR beautiful.