Mobile Restaurant Goes Plastic-Free

OK Bicycle Shop, in downtown Mobile, is the first restaurant in Alabama to officially join the Plastic Free Gulf Coast initiative that started in Mississippi last year. A launch party during happy hour on July 18 will celebrate their commitment to being plastic-free with drink specials, music and giveaways.

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With funding from the 2018 NOAA Marine Debris Prevention grant, Plastic Free Gulf Coast is focused on reducing single-use plastics, Styrofoam and plastic-lined food and beverage containers within the five Gulf states through outreach, education and improving consumer access to alternatives. “Our economy, human health, recreation and ecology all depend on healthy and plastic free water,” says Plastic Free Gulf Coast organizer Elizabeth Englebretson. “Every step that we take, even if it seems small, has a direct and immediate impact on the pandemic of microplastics and plastic pollution.”

Consumer action is vital and Englebretson’s main focus is to consult with restaurants, businesses and organizations to determine a model for implementing alternatives to plastics that are cost effective and sustainable. OK Bicycle Shop has committed to doing away with single-use petroleum-based plastics and Styrofoam by switching to paper straws, plant-based plastic to-go containers and reusable sushi mats instead of plastic wrap.

Other downtown restaurants are joining the movement by adopting “straws on request” policies, switching to plant-based straws and/or moving away from Styrofoam. Mobile Baykeeper has been instrumental in connecting these businesses to the collaborative, multi-state movement and in the creation of a soon-to-be-released interactive map of all Plastic Free Gulf Coast restaurants.

Location: 661 Dauphin St., Mobile, AL. For more information, email PlasticFreeGC@gmail.com and find Plastic Free Gulf Coast on Facebook.

Loren Roman-Nunez: Leading Sustainability On and Off Campus

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As an undergraduate studying environmental biology and the president of EcoEagles at University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Gulf Park campus in Long Beach, Loren Roman-Nunez is invested in sustainability. “As humans, we have an obligation to be the best stewards we can be, and this cannot be achieved by any one person—it takes many hands,” she says. “Getting involved with EcoEagles has taught me that there are many people out there who care, but they need a means to congregate and share ideas.”

EcoEagles is a student organization focused on outreach, community service and environmental stewardship to promote the social, economic and environmental tenants of sustainability. They collaborate with the school’s Office of Sustainability to promote the campus recycling initiative and encourage sustainable practices in day-to-day lives of students.

The group was awarded a grant last year to construct a community garden on campus to demonstrate how to grow your own food in an environmentally friendly manner. With vegetables, herbs and native flowers growing, the students are encouraged to help maintain the garden as well as provide input on what to grow.

EcoEagles fosters Roman-Nunez’s involvement in the community both on and off campus and has made strides in connecting the university with other community sustainability initiatives. The group partners with Mississippi State University Extension Services for their beach cleanups and they participate in the Pearl Riverkeeper’s Clean Sweep, using kayaks to collect trash from the river. In association with Plastic Free Gulf Coast, EcoEagles also promotes the Office of Sustainability’s efforts to move the campus away from single-use plastics.

Roman-Nunez says, “My hope is that future students will continue to engage with their peers and employers to push the limits on what we can do together to mitigate human impacts on the environment and make better choices in our daily lives.”