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Queen's University

Sustainability Office

Tea Room Eliminates Consumer Waste

December 13, 2011

Staff at the Tea Room recently celebrated a major milestone: the café is now 100 per cent consumer-waste free, meaning all of the products customers use can be recycled or composted.

"It's been pretty much one of the goals of the Tea Room since it opened in 2006," head manager Andrew Dean (Sc'12) says of eliminating consumer waste. "It was a pretty cool moment to just actually get rid of the garbage bin we had. You can't really find any other businesses around where you'd walk in and not see a garbage."

The Tea Room is a student-run initiative of the Queen's Engineering Society. Since it opened in 2006, its staff has focused on the three pillars that are the driving force behind the business: environmental responsibility; education; and fiscal sustainability.

Over the years, the Tea Room has slowly replaced items that would have gone into a landfill with ones that can be recycled or composted. Those items include stir sticks, sleeves, cups, lids and cutlery.

In the last year and a half, the focus has been on replacing the final item – securing an eco-friendly plastic wrap for sandwiches. After an exhaustive search, the group found a company based in California that produces a cellulose-based wrap that is compostable. The Tea Room orders the product and works with its sandwich supplier, Card's Bakery, to have the food wrapped in the compostable material.

While becoming consumer-waste free is a major accomplishment, staff members at the Tea Room aren't done yet. Their next goal is to produce zero waste overall. They're also eager to share their eco-friendly strategies with other like-minded people.

"Producing zero consumer waste is something that, as far as we know, has not been done anywhere in Canada," says Mr. Dean. "If there are other people out there doing similar or better things, we'd love to hear it."

For more information visit the Tea Room website.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000