WESTFIELD, NJ — Providing customers with paper takeout containers, bamboo straws and reusable bags are among the measures some local businesses are earning praise for.
To encapsulate that praise, the Green Team has bestowed recognition by way of a “medallion” (in the form a removable sticker) on more than a dozen businesses that had met measures it considers sustainable. The sticker is dated, however.
“This program will evolve, and every year we’re going to have a different set of criteria,” said Karrie Hanson, a volunteer on the Green Team, who has been instrumental in the program. “This year, we wanted to set the bar low … so it’s not so difficult to achieve, but it makes you start thinking about it.”
Hanson said the effort has been made in partnership with the government entity managing the town’s special improvement district, the Downtown Westfield Corporation.
Timothy Boyle, co-owner of 16 Prospect Wine Bar & Bistro, found he could easily qualify for recognition. During a visit from Green Team ambassadors and members of the press Thursday, he displayed the eco-friendly take out containers he has adopted.
The paper containers, Boyle said, cost him more than double what less environmentally sustainable containers would. Plastic cups that biodegrade more easily are four times the cost of what Boyle said he could otherwise purchase.
It is a cost the owners at 16 Prospect are willing to incur.
“Forget about the politics of things,” Boyle said. “To have less garbage around is a good thing. To have things be cleaner is a good thing.”
Plus, people like it, at least if Facebook is any barometer.
“Certainly on social media, it has gotten a lot of attention,” he said. “People are thrilled by it.”
The measured effort to bring more sustainability to Westfield businesses comes as the regulation of plastics has become more popular with proposed laws pending in the statehouse that would either ban plastic bags or impose fees on those who use them, along with municipalities throughout New Jersey preempting the governor with their own plastic bag bans.
Among them are Maplewood, which requires stores charge a 5 cent fee to customers requesting plastic bags, and Woodland Park, the Borough Council for which this week approved a law that will require businesses charge 10 cents to customers requesting a plastic bag. Closer to Westfield, Cranford is considering similar restrictions.
Councilman David Contract, the liaison to the Westfield Green Team, said town officials considered the regulatory measures but decided on the voluntary program.
“We’re really trying to come up with a comprehensive approach that is coming up with incentives to drive the change, and not imposing behaviors,” Contract said. “I really think that is a better way to go for our town.”
At Outta Hand Pizza on South Avenue, owner Burim Regjaj has taken a series of steps toward sustainability, including offering reusable utensils instead of one time use plastics, using recyclable take out containers, using paper straws and asking customers if they want a bag instead of automatically providing such products, according to the Green Team.
“We owe it to the future generations,” Regjaj said. “We owe it to them. We cannot ignore the fact that we inherited an unhealthy planet, and we cannot leave it as a dump.”
More information on the Green Team’s medallion program and links to resources for sustainability can be found by visiting http://www.westfieldnj.gov/medallion.
The list of businesses given Green Team medallions for sustainability efforts includes the following:
The Bar Method, 105 Elm St.
Bovella's Pastry Shoppe, 101 East Broad St.
Farinolio, 121 East Broad St.
The Farmhouse Store, 221 East Broad St.
The French Martini, 41 Elm St.
Golden Bee Antiques, 141 East Broad St.
The Hope Chest Thrift Store, 26 Prospect St.
Ono Bowls, 107 Quimby St.
Outta Hand Pizza, 311 South Ave. West
Patricia & Paul Artisans of Fine Oils and Balsamics, 20 Elm St.
16 Prospect Wine Bar & Bistro, 16 Prospect St.
Round Table Wealth Management, 241 North Avenue West
Savory Spice Shop, 138 E. Broad St.
Sole, 201 East Broad St.
The Town Bookstore, 270 East Broad St.
Businesses qualifying for the Green Team’s medallion will be honored at the Sept. 24 meeting of the Westfield Town Council, to be held at the municipal building, 425 East Broad St., at 8 p.m.
The Westfield Green Team is hosting a free composting workshop on Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. in the community room of the municipal building, 425 East Broad St., where Michelle Bakacs, of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, will present. Residents are asked to register on the Recreation Department website here. For more information, call 908-789-4086.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at email@example.com; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh