Cafes Switch to Eco-Friendly Containers
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Many consumers choose to live a sustainable, environmentally-friendly lifestyle. Their choices, however, are limited to those areas over which they have direct control, which often doesn’t include how their food gets packaged.

Now, however, SF State customers who frequent some cafes on campus can alleviate their pangs of guilt over the waste they help create.

Allam Elqadah, owner of Café Rosso, Station Café, HSS Café, Village Market and Taza Smoothies and Wraps, recently made the decision to switch all of the plastic containers used in his venues to a new, sustainable form of packaging: plastic made from corn.

Distributed by a company called Fabri-Kal, the new containers will hold cold drinks such as smoothies, as well as to-go items such as salad, fruit and pasta. They are 100 percent compostable and sustainable because they are made from an annually renewable resource.

“I feel very strongly about running a socially-responsible business,” said Elqadah, who graduated from SF State in 1994 with majors in economics and international relations. “With all the information available to us now, we can easily see the effects our practices have on our daily lives.”

The cafes took two weeks to filter out the old, petroleum-based containers and the new ones went into use last Monday. Though there is an increased cost for Elqadah to carry the new plastic, he said it is worth it because his customers will appreciate sustainable business on campus.

“Many business owners want to satisfy their customer base, so the more consumer advocacy you get for things like this, the more responses you’ll get from businesses and industry,” he said. “Even though it costs more, we know the customers will be grateful for it.”

Though the technology for heat-sensitive containers (that would hold hot items, like coffee) isn’t perfected yet, Elqadah is shopping around, and hopes that in the future, his businesses can offer 100 percent environmentally-friendly products.

These socially-conscientious business habits are important not only to his customers, but also to members of his staff. Alia Fakhry, a junior in hospitality management who works at Cafe Rosso, sees the effects that decisions made now will have on future generations.

“If we take care of the environment, we’ll be here longer, and our kids will be here longer,” said Fakhry, 26. “I think it’s great that businesses like this are taking advantage of the opportunities to do what they can.”

Her co-worker Vanessa Cooper, a 22-year-old senior in psychology, agreed.

“We have so many customers, and we go through so many cups,” Cooper said. “It’s nice to know we’re being less wasteful, and it’s important to our customers.”

Elqadah has made other changes to his businesses, such as offering Fair Trade and organic coffee and tea. He has also put pressure on the companies he does business with to change their practices as well, with significant results. He said City Bakery, where his cafes get their baked goods from, announced last week that it will no longer use transfat in any of their products.

Elqadah’s assistant, Jessica Zeidman, said there is an industry-wide shift in sustainable business practices, due to pressure from consumers and environmental groups. Elqadah, however, made the decision to switch to the corn-based plastic on his own.

“We have been looking into it for quite some time now, and we just know it’s the right thing to do. I have three beautiful daughters at home, and I want a better world for them,” he said. “We wanted to be a leader in sustainability. It just doesn’t make sense to do it any other way.”

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