RENO, Nev. — It’s a mid-spring Friday night, and the Brewer’s Cabinet brewpub in downtown Reno is buzzing and brimming with people.
Some are savoring craft brews, some sipping cocktails, others drinking soda or water — none using plastic straws.
Since March 1, Brewer’s Cabinet, along with Sierra Tap House and Ole Bridge Pub — all co-owned by Michael Connolly, Chris Kahl and Zachary Cage — have not used plastic straws in their establishments.
Joining a growing national trend, especially on the east and west coasts, the pubs’ well-publicized “no straw” campaign is an effort to help the environment by limiting plastic pollution.
“The campaign was just one small step toward always trying to look at what we can do a little bit better,” Cage said in an interview with the Northern Nevada Business Weekly. “Northern Nevada is a unique landscape; anything we do to (negatively) impact the landscape, it shows for awhile because the land doesn’t recover as quickly as greener areas.”
A positive reaction
Every day, Americans use more than 500 million plastic straws (an average of 1.6 straws per person), enough to wrap the circumference of the earth 2.5 times, according to Get Green Now. Moreover, it takes up to 200 years for plastic straws, which are not biodegradable, to decompose.
And studies show that small and lightweight straws often never make it into recycling bins. Cage has seen the evidence of this failure since back when he helped first open nearby Sierra Tap House on West First Street roughly 12 years ago.
“Plastic gets left on the ground — we see that all the time outside of our establishments,” he said. “We see straws and stir sticks and cocktail toothpicks — its just litter. So we’re trying to cut back on that.”
As an alternative to plastic straws, the Brewer’s Cabinet, Ole Bridge Pub and Sierra Tap House offer paper straws, which decompose.
Nearly three months into pivoting to being paper straw only, Cage said the customer response so far has been mostly positive, save for a couple of “nasty-grams” on social media.
“We wondered if we’d be dealing with complainers and dissenters or if people would accept it,” Cage said. “Largely, it’s been the latter. Folks either don’t express an opinion or are congratulatory. The reception has been going really well, the adoption by employees has been going well.”
Cage said he’s hoping other businesses in the area follow suit in banning plastic straws, if they don’t already.
‘It’s the right thing to do’
One brewery that is joining the nix on plastic straws is Great Basin Brewing Co., the largest and oldest operating brewery in all of Nevada. Great Basin Brewing has a brewpub in Sparks, and both a brewpub and taproom in Reno.
Owners Tom and Bonda Young said Great Basin Brewing even attempted to do away with plastic straws roughly five years ago. It didn’t last long, though.
“Everybody hated it,” Bonda Young said in a mid-May interview with the NNBV. “But, we’re doing it again. We’re just going through our supply of plastic right now. It’s the right thing to do.”
Tom Young said it might even inspire customers to use more sustainable practices in other parts of their lives.
“Some of it is symbolic,” he continued. “It can show people, let’s give up things we don’t need. It might translate to other parts of their life that may be more meaningful in quantity than straws.”