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Have you stopped in at a local Dunkin' Donuts lately for a cup of coffee? If you have, you have probably been served in their new environmentally-friendly recycled paper cups that are being tested in a pilot program for the national chain.

It is no coincidence that the Port Washington locations have been selected for inclusion in the program. It all started in a meeting at Daly Elementary School with principal Elaine Ajello, several parents and Patti Wood of local non-profit, Grassroots Environmental Education. In a brainstorming session for the school's "Daly Green Committee," it was suggested that in conjunction with the environmental education programs on plastics and recycling, the children take some action on reducing the use of Styrofoam in their school and town.

The kids decided that they would write letters to Dunkin' Donuts and the school district food service and ask them to offer a "greener" alternative to their Styrofoam containers. Third-graders wrote letters to Dunkin' Donuts and fifth- graders wrote to the school. One child wrote:

"Dear Duncan [sic] Donuts, I love all the donuts, munchkins and chocolate milk that you make. But can you stop using Styrofoam cups? They are made from oil and hurt the Earth's ozone layer. Since it doesn't decompose it takes up space in landfills. Over time, it crumbles into little pieces that get carried by wind to sea. It floats on the water's surface and fish think it is food and eat it. I hope all this has changed your mind about using Styrofoam cups. So please switch to paper cups. I'll see you next time. From, Dean"

With help from Grassroots' intern and Schreiber high school student Christina Zhou, who researched the scientific information on polystyrene, (and several telephone conferences between Patti Wood and Dunkin's national office), a meeting was held in Port with executives of Dunkin' Brands. Patti Wood and Mindy Germain, parent and member of the Daly Green Committee who worked with the kids in the classrooms. They were shown examples of new cup prototypes the company had already been working on. The company also let Patti and Mindy know that Port Washington had been chosen as a pilot program site and was grateful for the opportunity to work with the town and local franchisees as the tests moved forward

The children of Daly School learned an important lesson in the power of writing letters and our town is cleaner and has fewer non-renewable, non-recyclable petroleum products in its waste stream. We hope that other Port Washington take-out food establishments who use Styrofoam will follow the lead of Dunkin Donuts and also make the change to environmentally-friendly cups and packaging materials.

Postscript: The Port Washington School District has discontinued the use of Styrofoam trays.


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