Say NO To Bad News…And Plastic

I’ve never been a big fans of Sundays. It’s the day before Monday, the start of the work week (which isn’t always a bad thing!) and the day after Saturday, which means the weekend is almost over…*sigh*. Sundays are always the days when I feel the most melancholy, possibly because it’s one of the few days where I have a lot of time to think and ponder all of the stuff that’s been floating around my head all week. Inevitably, this leads to reading news and sometimes getting frustrated. Why?

There is so much bad news out there. It sucks. It’s depressing and it takes a lot to slog through it all and remain optimistic. A lot of the time, I get so bogged down, I just want to turn around and ignore everything. I’ve even gone so far as to stop reading/watching the news and instead skim headlines, to avoid being overwhelmed. But really…this doesn’t work. Avoiding the problem just makes it worse, and we could definitely use less apathy in this world.

So this is the attitude I’ve chosen to take with bad news: use it as a motivator. The topic of plastic pollution can make anyone want to throw their hands up and throw the towel in. Even when it seems like nothing matters though, or nothing we do has any effect on anything…it does. I’m kicking bad news to the curb and keeping my head up. Here’s why:

The Starfish Story by Loren Eisley

Brittle Star; Damariscotta River Estuary

I first heard this story at the 5th International Marine Debris Conference, and it stuck with me. It varies from source to source (one Google search will yield over 2 million results) but the gist is this:

A man is walking on a beach and he happens upon a child, carefully picking something up off the sand and tossing it into the ocean. As the man gets closer, he sees hundreds of starfish that have washed up on the beach. He asks the boy what he’s doing to which the boy replies with, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” The man is incredulous, pointing out that there are miles and miles of beach, and hundreds of starfish…what difference will it make to throw a few starfish back? The boy smiles, picks up a starfish and tosses it in the surf: “I made a difference for that one.” (Source:

Need another reason to care? To be motivated? Check this out:

Roz Savage, Ocean Rower

Once again, I’m traveling back in time to 5IMDC for this one. The first night of the conference, we were invited to attend a get-together to welcome all the participants. It was a perfect night full of networking, beer and fantastic speakers. One of those speakers was Roz Savage, Ocean Rower extraordinaire. She’s an activist with a twist: to get her point across, that we should “Stop Drifting, Start Rowing,” she rows across oceans. She’s taken over 3 million oar-strokes and can say, most definitely, that “Every oar-stroke counts.”

Now, every time I feel down, I have these two things to add to my arsenal. Feeling inspired yet? I hope so, because I’m passing on a challenge.

Most who know me also know of my love and addiction for Glass Dharma’s wonderful, fabulous glass straws. These straws are physical reminders that we can make a difference with one simple choice: say “no” to plastic straws and either go without, or bring your own.

Well, the wonderfully inspiring folks at Glass Dharma are throwing down a challenge for Earth Day 2011 (Friday, April 22nd, mark your calendars!): write a letter (yes, a snail-mail letter) to a restaurant of your choice, asking them to claim responsibility for the growing amount of trash streaming into our landfills (much of it consists of food/packaging waste). Why is it necessary for the wait staff at restaurants to automatically place unwrapped plastic straws in a glass of water, before you even have a chance to say “No straw please!”? The short answer is it’s not. It’s become so common-place to add a straw to everything that nobody thinks twice. And this is the hope with all the letter writing: that restaurant owners and their staff will stop and take notice. It doesn’t even have to be a letter about saving the environment! Everything these days is money driven so why not tailor the letter to highlight the cost-savings of not auto-filling all drinks with straws?

And here’s the best part…there’s free glass straws involved.

Yep, after you write your letter and send it off, paste a copy of your letter (with the restaurant’s contact info) into the comment section below. Email with that same copy of your letter along with not only the restaurants contact info, but also your info! Why? So you can receive a free glass straw! You heard me: write a letter, become blessed with a glass straw (limit 5/participant, one for each letter/restaurant). It’s so simple AND rewarding.

But wait…there’s MORE!

Glass Dharma will award one lucky letter-writer a $100 gift certificate to their online store. So get crackin’ people, because this free-straw/drawing offer ends on April 30th, 2011! Check their blog post for more info on the cause and for letter-writing tips!

Fresh-Squeezed Lemonade w/ Simple Elegance Straw

(Since this post is getting lengthy, I’ll do a separate post with my letter.) 🙂

Together, our small actions add up and make a BIG difference. So let’s get to work!


4 thoughts on “Say NO To Bad News…And Plastic

  1. Best. Idea. Ever. Here’s my letter I just sent:

    April 19, 2011

    Mr. Geoff Houghton
    The Run of the Mill
    100 Main Street
    Saco, ME 04072

    Dear Mr. Houghton:

    I wanted to write a brief letter of thanks, and a request. Thanks for saving & renovating a gorgeous old mill, bringing live music, and just plain good, local brews & food to town. And thanks for the ways you’ve already thought outside the box to protect the environment. The prominent cigarette receptacle outside the main door means so many stubs & butts that won’t wash down into the Saco River. The recycled paper doggie bags are so much better than styrofoam. Little things like that keep us coming back.

    I wondered if you’d be willing to take an extra step. Did you know that, in the U.S. alone, we throw out ~500 million plastic straws a day? It seems such a waste, this little piece of plastic, used for a few minutes and then pitched. And it’s not just a waste, it also pollutes. I go beachcombing down at Bay View beach, and too often find plastic straws — some recent, some that have floated in on the tide. The Blue Ocean Society down in NH picked up 2,451 plastic straws from NH beaches last year! There’s a 9-year-old kid in Vermont, Milo Cress, who realizes that this is silly. He’s started to open folks’ eyes to the scale of the waste.

    I’m a firm believer in choice. I mean, it’s a free society — people should be able to use a plastic straw if they want one. But I also wonder, if plastic straws weren’t just given out automatically, would they even be missed? I use a straw if it’s in my glass; I don’t miss it when it’s not. Would you be willing to try a new system at the Run of the Mill? Would you make straws available on request, but not automatically put into drinks?

    It seems like a small step. A drop in the bucket. But it’s a real step. Everything that’s ever been changed for the better has started with the smallest of steps.

    Many thanks for your time.


    Harold Johnson


    1. Kim! Thanks for your comment. I’m so glad I heard this story, it’s become my go-to for inspiration and motivation. I’d love to get out to SoCal sometime and see what you guys over at Save Our Beach are all up to! 🙂 Keep up the good work!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s