While home for my yearly Christmas visit, my brother graciously gifted me with Wild tickets, and being the good sister that I am, I invited him. Per tradition, we stopped at a beloved, locally renowned St. Paul bar before the puck drop to wet our whistles with somewhat reasonably priced drinks (yes, Xcel Energy Center, your prices are cruel).
This bar, just a few blocks from the rink, is a staple to the Twin Cities. I particularly enjoy the Christmas garland interwoven with holiday lights strung about the walls. The large windows remind you of where you are, and it’s exactly where you want to be, as Lowertown is arguably one of the most architecturally beautiful parts of St. Paul. The staff have that “Minnesota nice” air to them without the feel that they are forcibly curling their lips up in the hopes that patrons give them an extra buck for their hard work. I do love this bar.
That being said, I couldn’t start my year, or decade, by letting a matter so close to home (literally) go without notice. As the wonderful barmaid poured up our ice-cold beers and our witty waitress dropped them off, I became horrified by what I saw. Our cups were plastic. Everyone’s were.
Now, hear me out. At the risk of sounding like a broken record player, (or is it a Spotify or Apple playlist, infinitely on repeat?) this bothered me. As a Minnesota native, I have always thought highly of Minnesota’s forward-thinking and, of course, our natural-born talent with a puck, a stick and ice. But as my eyes darted around the room, I noticed that even the shot glasses were made of plastic — not a single glass cylinder in sight.
“Maybe this is just for game days,” I thought as I tried erasing my mind’s depiction of a gigantic mountain of plastic piling up in the dumpster out back. But the other side on my shoulder countered, reminding me of the time I worked at an equally beloved, equally busy bar. Regardless of the event (Badger game days, Iron Man, UW graduation …), we never stooped to the level of using plastic for pleasure. We not only used an eco-friendly dishwasher, reusable plates and silver silverware, but we took the time to separate our recycling and compost all of our food (shoutout to the Plaza Tavern).
Now, I understand change isn’t easy, but as another local favorite sang, “the times they are a-changin’,” and we decide which side of change we want to be on. So when I saw this happening in my home state, in my home city, I have to say that I was appalled first, then disheartened. I asked my server to reuse my plastic cup for all of my drinks. She agreed with my shock of mounting avoidable waste and set my garbage cup aside to be refilled by the bartender.
Unfortunately, unbeknown to her, the barkeep threw my plastic cylinder away. At this moment, the last bit of hope I had faded as I saw her toss my plastic cup into an overflowing bin of mixed waste, food and liquid. The insurmountable amount of plastic was not even being recycled, and what amounts were being recycled presumably were not properly rinsed out to pass guidelines.
The point of this article is not to tear this hockey player’s bar apart, but to give it and other Minnesotan establishments alike, hope and testimonial from experience that positive environmental change can be implemented in a strong and effective business model. Paper straws are not the answer, and unfortunately people can’t control themselves from stealing metal ones (come on, guys, a pack of eight are like $15 on Amazon!), but each step we make toward positive global change will leave its mark.
We have already entered a new decade. This decade will be remembered in posterity as the ’20s, and we have the chance to reshape these “Roaring ’20s” so as to not end in disaster. Business owners, as well as lawmakers, should want this decade to be recalled upon fondly. The present is up to all of us, but specifically, it is up to those with the power to advance laws and run our economy. It doesn’t matter who steps up first, as long as both sides do. The dominoes can fall from either end.
What’s good for the environment is good for business. So, to this particular bar, other business owners, and lawmakers alike, start implementing the right policies for positive change in Minnesota. It would mean the world to us.
Katrina Radke, a Minnesota native, lives in Prague.