Four Larchmont Restaurants to Stop Using Plastic For a Month Under MHS OCRA-Led Pilot Project

Left to right: Larissa Bertini, Lisa Chase (co-owner of The Grange), Katie Loga, and Marion Karp. The Grange is one of four local restaurants participating in a pilot program led by OCRA students to encourage local restaurants to reduce plastic use.

The worldwide push to reduce plastic pollution has three local champions in Mamaroneck High School juniors: Larissa Bertini, Marion Karp and Katie Loga. On June 1, 2022, Larchmont restaurants, The Grange, Lala Taqueria, Turquoise and Apiary, will stop using single-use plastic items for a month and test out eco-friendly alternatives. The three Original Civic Research and Action (OCRA) students convinced the participating restaurants to give paper and compostable alternatives a shot after conducting extensive research into the benefits of eco-friendly cutlery, containers, cups and straws.


For Ms. Karp, getting to the pilot project has been an incredible learning experience. “My OCRA group started in the fall of 2020 with interviews of local restaurant owners to determine whether it is even possible to reduce the use of plastic in their business. Now we’re entering the action phase, which is so exciting.” Lisa Chase, an original interviewee, said her restaurant, The Grange, is participating in the pilot project “because of the students. When they first approached us in 2020, we were intrigued but constrained by the pandemic and other factors. Their determination for our community to become even more eco-friendly, a vision we share, prompted us to see if we could make it work.”


The 30-day pilot project “provides the OCRA students the unique opportunity to study the effects of substituting eco-friendly products for single-use plastics on both businesses and customers,” said Joe Liberti, founder and director of the OCRA four-year program. “In essence, they created a much-needed, local case study which, depending on the students’ findings, creates additional supporting data for future advocacy and change.”


OCRA students work on their research and projects with the help of community stakeholders and mentors. “Working with knowledgeable and dedicated community-based mentors such as Michael Gottfried and Jenna Haefelin has made all the difference with our project. They’ve helped us become better project managers, which is a skill typically not learned in other courses,” said Ms. Loga. “We learned quickly to support the individuals we hope will take a chance on us.” 


This type of community-based work requires consistent high-quality, professional work and sustained commitment.  The multi-year research project helps OCRA students develop and practice new skills, especially their public presentation skills. “It was particularly challenging and fun to pitch our 30-day pilot project to a group of eco-investors who we asked to cover incremental costs of our project. Along the way, we’ve gained insights from meeting public officials in our and other waterfront communities,” said Ms. Bertini. Working with the OCRA students has also been rewarding for their mentors. Jenna Haefelin noted: “These students have impressed us and everyone they have met with their hard work and unwavering courage to push back against an ever-increasing environmental threat to our coastal community.”


To keep tabs on their progress, you can follow Students for Sustainable Solutions on Instagram.