ReThink presents findings of restaurant study

·3 min read

Jul. 28—McKinney Climate Fellow at Indiana University and reTHink summer intern Mariah Baderp released the findings of her study of sustainable restaurant to-go packaging Wednesday at the environmental nonprofit's zero-waste store.

Her presentation began with the same facts about plastics and Styrofoam that she delivered to the 13 restaurants and food-service organizations she met with over the summer — people seemed most staggered by the idea that it takes 500 years for Styrofoam to decompose (and even then, it doesn't fully exit the ecosystem) — and continued with the results of a survey that she conducted in the past couple of months.

According to Bader's survey results, for example, 82% thought it was essential or very important to use compostable or reusable to-go cartons, and a majority was willing to pay an additional 20 cents for such containers, but 23% would resent any such surcharge.

Sanela Ikanovic, whose parents own Babo's Cafe, which participated in Bader's project, was in attendance. Bader said that the restaurant specializing in Balkan cuisine got all of its comestibles and supplies from one source — Performance Food — and a quick investigation revealed that the company did not offer recyclable items. Bader reached out to Performance Food to ask they add some to their stock.

"Maybe once they figure things out or we figure out something that's consistent," Babo's will be able to join the program, Ikanovic said.

Ikanovic called Bader's Wednesday presentation "a good refresher — there were things that were different because now the study is over." She added, "Most businesses are worried about change and the costs. Finding out that most people are open-minded to that change and that cost is not a big issue is huge to find out, as well."

WTHI chief meteorologist Kevin Orpurt also attended Bader's presentation.

"My boss has been involved with this, and I just think sustainability in the community is just a very good idea," Orpurt said.

"This is a good way to make this more well known to people who might not have considered not using plastic, those kind of things." He called Bader's work "quite good. I was fascinated by some of the information."

After Bader's presentation, the 25 community members in attendance asked questions and brainstormed how to further the cause of sustainability. One suggested that small restaurants join forces to buy in bulk and save on those supplies.

A meal was provided while Bader spoke, featuring vegetables from reTHink's garden, along with compostable forks and plates. Natasha Vollendorf, who joined reTHink's board just last week, offered dessert snacks and smoothies designed to satisfy people with specific blood types.

Shikha Bhattacharyya, executive director of reTHink, introduced board members in attendance and mentioned that reTHink would welcome more board members; four attendees promptly volunteered. Amazed by the response, Bhattacharyya said, "We should do this more often."

Bader has two more weeks left in her reTHink internship. "I'll miss having work to do," she said.

reTHink's annual Replay Runway fashion-show fundraiser will be Sept. 10 at the Terre Haute Brewing Company. Three of the volunteer models attended Bader's presentation.

David Kronke can be reached at 812-231-4232 or at