By Wendy Sarubbi | October 3, 2011 10:44 am

Along with the tasty wraps and fortifying cups of joe, eco-friendly products are on the menu at the College of Medicine Café.

Reducing dependence on tree-based paper products and minimizing waste disposal are his goals, says café manager Tim Berkheiser.

“The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time,” says Berkheiser, who is on a mission to bring in more green products as the café uses up items made of traditional paper, plastic and plastic foam.

The Earth-smart products take less energy to make, reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and decompose more quickly than traditional products, says Berkheiser. He likes to use the term “compostable” – that is, you could use those cups and plates to enrich your garden’s soil because they support plant life and don’t produce toxic materials.

Drop into the café for a coffee break, and you’ll find hot cups made from sugar cane and innovative plastic lids that use PLA, a corn-based plastic. And that coffee holder to protect your hand is stamped “100 percent recycled paper.”

At lunch, you might artfully build your salad in a corn-based plastic container. Your iced tea streams into a cold cup made from renewable resources, and other plates and containers are based on sugar cane. Straws are made from plant-based materials, and plastic utensils are being replaced with counterparts created from plant-based starches. Berkheiser says he’s still searching for napkins that are 100-percent tree-free.

Even garbage bags have not escaped Berkheiser’s keen eye. He says the café goes through about 10-12 50-gallon bags – all made from oil-based plastic – each day of operation. He has ordered eco-friendly bags that will allow more oxygen into the bag so that garbage will decompose faster once it hits the landfill.

Café patrons have reacted positively to the changes.

“We’re raising awareness for our customers,” Berkheiser says.

And about your next cup of java? Berkheiser says bring your own mug, and you’ll not only help save the environment, you’ll save money: Coffee in a café cup is $1.50 – your own? Just a $1.

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