Sustainable To-Go Packaging: Still a Push in St. Paul


Melissa Wenzel brings organics food waste to her Ramsey County drop-off site. readers care about the environment, right? That’s why we’re counting on you to care about the push for sustainable to-go packaging at restaurants and eateries in St. Paul.

St. Paul City Council members are warming up to the idea of updating the city’s ordinance to require sustainable to-go packaging, with an implementation period of 12 to 18 months after the council vote on Wednesday, February 20. Among their concerns, which advocates are working to address, are the impact on small businesses, co-op buying options and a long enough implementation period to make the change financially feasible.

Council President Amy Brendmoen, who represents Ward 5, and Ward 4 council member Mitra Jalali Nelson have voiced their support for making the 20-year-old ordinance more “green,” both environmentally and economically.

Advocates have met with every council member except Ward 6, and we’re meeting with newly selected council member Kassim Busuri at Karibu Grocery and Deli at 9:30 a.m. January 30. (If you haven’t been to that east side East-African fast-casual restaurant and grocery store at Payne and Minnehaha avenues, give it a go. I recommend the Somali tea and any of the Somali rice dishes, especially the Nomad’s Ari.)

Karibu Stine

Former MPCA commissioner John Stine (left) gave Karibu Grocery & Deli a 5-star review online after his first visit.

Between now and February 20, we’re working directly with restaurants and other establishments — especially small businesses and minority- and immigrant-owned businesses — to discuss this possible ordinance change, inform them of their buying options and address any additional concerns.

We have a one-page document of city, county, regional and statewide funding, confidential site visits, and other assistance for switching to sustainable to-go containers, composting and general sustainability issues.

We need your activism, too! Check out this list of over 100 restaurants, coffee shops and other establishments from every part of the city that have some level of sustainable (recyclable or compostable) to-go containers — and support those businesses.

We are also encouraging any resident, worker or consumer of food and beverages in St. Paul to fill out this “Letter of Support” and email all seven St. Paul City Council members. Nearly 200 letters have been sent since January 18! It takes less than a minute to fill out the information that will generate a letter to the entire City Council saying you support the updated ordinance to require all establishments in St. Paul to have sustainable to-go containers.

Learn more about Zero Waste Saint Paul, the organization behind this effort, on its website or Facebook page.


Augustine’s Bar & Bakery uses sustainable packaging.

February 20: That’s when City Council members will vote on updating the ordinance. The vote will take place between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. at City Hall in downtown St. Paul (15 W. Kellogg Blvd.). The meeting is open to the public, though public testimony will not be taken.

An ordinance that dates back to 1989 may finally be updated and fully implemented. Why?

  • To help the environment.
  • To help businesses save money.
  • To let residents recycle and compost more, and save money.
  • To help set the trend for statewide — and even national — implementation.
  • To help the city and county meet their state-mandated recycling goals (75 percent of the city’s waste must be recycled or composted by 2030).

This updated ordinance is the right thing to do for our sustainable, resilient and forward-thinking city.

Melissa Wenzel

About Melissa Wenzel

Car-free bicycle advocate, passionate state employee, union leader. MN's "Industrial Stormwater Sherpa." Human being first, government employee second.