Small Group of Volunteers Lead Charge to Get Rid of Plastic Straws in Jackson, Wyoming

Restaurants in Jackson, Wyoming, are making strides to reduce plastic waste and promote sustainability by cutting back on or eliminating plastic straws, with some help from a small but dedicated local group called Straw Free Jackson Hole (SFJH).

Pizzeria Caldera, which offers Neapolitan-style pies, made the switch to paper straws in the spring of 2019, according to the Jackson Hole News and Guide. The restaurant uses environmentally friendly straws from an American company called Aardvark in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Aardvark offers a variety of durable paper straws in different sizes for cocktails, bubble teas, milkshakes and malts as well as custom straws designed for brands and events.

Teton County, where Jackson is located, has adopted the principle of zero waste to conserve resources, save money, create jobs and sustain the health of the environment. As part of its Road to Zero Waste initiative, the city has committed to reduce, reuse, recycle and compost as much material as possible. At present, the county diverts—or keeps out of landfills—33 percent of discards and aims for 60 percent diversion by 2030.

Pizzeria Caldera is one of about 45 Jackson, Wyoming restaurants that have committed to reducing plastic straws.

Straw Free Jackson Hole, which consists of just five environmentally minded volunteers, have helped lead efforts to convince local businesses to ditch single-use plastic, especially straws. The group’s volunteer coordinator, Julie Deardorff, told the Jackson Hole News and Guide that about 45 restaurants are working to reduce or eliminate plastic straws.

“The only plastic single-serve items we still use—because they are extremely difficult to find replacements for—are portion cups and beverage cup lids,” said Chris Hansen, who co-owns Pizzeria Caldera with his wife, Miga Rossetti.

Other Jackson restaurants that have committed to reducing plastic waste include Hand Fire Pizza, Hatch Taqueria and Tequilas, Local Restaurant and Bar, Trio: An American Bistro, The Granary, and the White Buffalo Club. Some have made a switch to metal, hay and paper straws and bamboo stir sticks. Others only provide straws when customers ask for them.

julie deardorff and josh hirschmann of Local Restaurant and Bar pose in front of the restaurant's door where a plastic-free sticker has been placed.

Julie Deardorff, one of five members of Straw Free Jackson Hole, presents a straw-free sticker to Josh Hirschmann of Local Restaurant and Bar in Jackson, Wyoming.

Jackson restaurants that are reducing plastic waste receive door stickers from SFJH celebrating their commitment to environmental sustainability.

Due to its natural beauty and location in the Rocky Mountains, Jackson Hole is a major tourist destination. Deardorff wants visitors to be impressed by the community’s commitment to zero waste and promote similar initiatives in their hometowns. “Hopefully, someone notices when they go back to where they live, and they’ll think twice about plastic,” she said in the interview.

Jackson already has a city ordinance in place that prohibits retailers from providing single-use plastic bags, but straw reduction remains voluntary. Deardorff said plastic straws are “a gateway to thinking about plastics in general. It was totally true for me.”

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