BETHESDA,Md. – Styrofoam plates and plastic utensils are history for thousands of headquarters employees at Marriott Corp. who are now adapting to eating and drinking with dishes made from sugar cane and potatoes.
The hotel chain's main office is changing the way its 3,000-plus employees are eating lunch in the cafeteria and drinking coffee at their desks by launching its newest green initiative on America Recycles Day.
The company wants to reduce its environmental impact,acting as a model for its hotels.
The headquarters is switching to fully compostable utensils,plates and cups made of sugar cane,potatoes and cornstarch.
SpudWare is the new plasticware. Produced by Excellent Packaging & Supply in Richmond,Calif.,SpudWare can be washed and is more durable than most of its plastic counterparts. It's made of 80 percent vegetable starch and 20 percent soy or other vegetable oils and is heat resistant. The new biodegradable materials will leave no environmental footprint,taking an average of 100 days to break down in a landfill.
Although Marriott doesn't plan to reuse the utensils,it still estimates the switch will lessen the load on area landfills by eliminating 16 tons of Styrofoam and 5.5 tons of plasticware a year.
Thursday's kick-start was met with employee optimism.
Angela Davis,a Marriott revenue manager,considers herself an environmentalist at home and now at work.
“It makes me really proud to work here,and I get to go home and brag to my friends,” said Davis,who doesn't own a car and bikes to the office from the nearby rail station. “I think the changes aren't so difficult to follow when the company makes it so easy for you.”
Before Thursday,used lunch trays were left on conveyer belts. All the leftover food,plates,cups and utensils went in the trash together. Now employees must separate trash into three recycling containers: one each for drink containers,paper and food,which includes the SpudWare
Marriott is using its corporate headquarters as a model for more than 3,000 of its hotels worldwide. The hotels have also made other changes,such as doing more laundry with cold water and replacing 450,000 incandescent light bulbs with fluorescents.
“We have a lot of efforts underway,” said Stephanie Hampton,Marriott's senior director of corporate communication. “It makes great business sense,and it works for the environment,too.”
Going greener comes at a cost. Although SpudWare is double the cost of regular plasticware,Marriot hopes all the changes will save money in the long term,Hampton said. The company anticipates lower costs for electricity and trash disposal.
For Stacey Cohen,a business manager at Marriott's headquarters,the green initiative matches her mission to preserve the Earth.
“I personally have a passion for green. It's doing the right thing for the globe,” said Cohen,the lead volunteer for the building's “green team.”
Beyond potato utensils and sugar cane plates,the headquarters has 30 parking spots reserved for hybrid vehicles,and waste baskets at each desk are being replaced with three-compartment recycling containers.
“If we all do our part,we can definitely make a difference,both at the office and at home,” said Jim Young,senior director of corporate facilities.