A Strawless Step Forward

Almost 500 million single-use plastic straws are used every day in America. They end up in landfills or our oceans, unable to be recycled or reused. With a grant from the NC State Sustainability Fund, two NC State students and Park Scholars set out on a mission to reduce that number. 

Shannon Dolan, majoring in Environmental Sciences, and Annalise Hafner, majoring in Biochemistry and Nutrition Science, were inspired to apply for a Sustainability Fund grant after researching plastic use on NC State’s campus. 

After observing that coffee locations in Talley Student Union automatically added straws to drinks, Dolan and Hafner reached out to NC State Dining. Within just a few days, straws were moved to the counter and available if students wanted one.

“This simple action gives customers the option to use a reusable straw or no straw in place of a plastic one,” Dolan said. “This showed us that NC State is more than willing to make changes towards being more sustainable.”

Dolan and Hafner did not stop there, though. After receiving the grant, they distributed 1,000 reusable straw kits consisting of a stainless steel straw, a cleaning brush and a black canvas carrying bag. With support from Steph Jeffries and Megan Lupek in the College of Natural Resources, all students in the Environmental 101 course also received a kit. 

Later, Dolan and Hafner followed up with a survey, which indicated people used the straws regularly.

“The majority of those who responded indicated that using a reusable straw increased their consciousness about how their daily activities impact the environment and stated they would continue to use their straws,” Hafner said.NC State Dining is making the next big move in reducing plastic straws on campus. Starting this semester, all campus food courts – including the Atrium Food Court, Talley Pavillions and On the Oval – will serve fountain drinks with a strawless, compostable sip lid. This lid will join the compostable cup already served at these locations, eliminating single-use plastic waste from fountain drinks.