Sustainability up to the students

Since their grand opening in Jan. 2012, Menchie’s has been exceptionally popular despite not having on-site recycling bins, particularly for their signature plastic spoon.

Sustainable Waterloo Region’s executive director Mike Morrice suggested that it’s the customers who play one of the biggest roles in driving a business to becoming more sustainable.

“To the extent that the customer base shows and exhibits a concern around sustainability, the business will respond to that,” said Morrice.

According to Menchie’s owner Drew Eizenga, Waterloo customers have yet to complain.

“The only feedback that I get once in a while is, ‘Drew there’s Menchie’s cups all over the front of Menchie’s, what are you going to do about that?’” explained Eizenga.

“Other than that, I haven’t heard much about recycling.”

With no options for cones, and only a garbage bin available within the store, plastic spoons have been thrown out since the store’s opening.

“We do need to have recycling bins for the spoons, it’s a lot of plastic that’s just thrown out that can be recycled,” said Eizenga who recently approached his landlord about the issue.

Eizenga received a response to his concern, informing him that there is not enough space to put recycling bins in the plaza for Menchie’s.

“The funny thing about leasing a building is I can’t make any decisions outside of my store,” said Eizinga.

The management group PM365  the company that supervises Menchie’s plaza — refused to comment on the issue. Employees of Starbucks, Frat Burger and Booster Juice report similar problems of having no accessible recycling bin for their business.

“I think if the city was serious about it they’d say every commercial plaza in Waterloo has to have recycling cardboard and garbage,” said Eizenga. “It doesn’t seem difficult to do.”

Morrice had a different focus as to the most influential role in regards to businesses becoming more sustainable.

“It really is in the hands of the individual, and in this case, it really is in the hands of students to really help communicate their ethic and their concern to the business by voting with their dollars.”

With Wilfrid Laurier University across from Menchie’s and the University of Waterloo down the street, the influence of the student market has the potential to make a difference in the push for a greener Menchie’s.

“That to me is really empowering,” Morrice continued. “You have the power to encourage businesses to become more sustainable.”

Eizenga admitted that although he has yet to receive much criticism, he has heard of customer influence affecting the sustainability of Menchie’s in other locations.

“I haven’t seen a lot about recycling, but my friend who owns two stores in Vancouver hears stuff about recycling all the time.”

Eizenga explained that his friend and fellow owner was in a similar situation. The Vancouver Menchie’s, like Waterloo, had no recycling bin on site because there were issues due to space. However, customer reaction to this issue in British Columbia forced the landlord to make a sustainable change.

“The customers put up such an uproar ….They got a group of people together I guess and just started sending e-mails to the landlord,” explained Eizenga.

“They have a recycling bin now for spoons.”

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