Two regional green groups are targeting Hampton Roads restauranteurs as the focus of a “Straw-free Earth Day” event, April 22. Sponsored by Keep It Beachy Clean and askHRgreen.org, the one-day campaign will raise awareness about the environmental effects of single-use plastic straws, ranked among the Top 10 most littered items by The Ocean Conservancy.
“Plastic straws are made of material that is designed to last for decades, yet they are generally used for less than 30 minutes and then thrown away,” said Christina Trapani, program manager for the Keep It Beachy Clean program. “Straws that enter our waterways can break up into smaller pieces over time, persisting for years, endangering sea turtles, birds and other marine life that can mistake them for food.”
Event organizers are inviting eateries to fill out an online form at www.keepitbeachyclean.org/strawfree, where they can request window clings, tabletop signs and social media graphics with messages such as: “Thanks for skipping the straw. You just kept a seahorse from looking trashy.” Participating dining establishments will be featured on the websites of both organizations.
For diners who simply can’t go without, participating restaurants will be supplied with a sample of paper straws to offer. While paper straws are a much better alternative than plastic, the best alternative is that restaurants use the Keep It Beachy Clean materials for a future straws-on-request policy.
“The campaign fits nicely with our ‘Choose to Refuse Single-use Plastics’ initiative,” said Katie Cullipher, who oversees askHRgreen.org, a region-wide public awareness and education campaign administered through the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.
“Saying ‘no’ to plastic straws, utensils, grocery bags, coffee stirrers and polystyrene to-go containers may be the single most important thing you can do to reduce plastic in our oceans, litter on our streets, dangers to wildlife and landfills filled to the brim,” said Cullipher.
In addition to the restaurants, Trapani encourages individuals to ditch the straws on “Straw-free Earth Day” as well by taking an online pledge, letting servers know they don’t want a straw, or bringing their own reusable sipper.
“If you can, bring your own reusable straw, or just go without one and enjoy your drink while you help Keep It Beachy Clean,” said Trapani.