Plastic straws are in nearly every beverage we drink at restaurants. They’re dunked in cocktails at the bar. And our kids are using them in sippy cups and boxed juices. They’re a part of our everyday life. So much so that most people don’t realize that they are a detriment to our environment. They significantly pollute land and sea on a global scale; in fact, it’s predicted that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. In an effort to reverse this destruction, actress and Westporter
Melissa Joan Hart is leading the cause to eradicate the use of plastic straws. She’s launching her grassroots effort in this small town we call home.
WHAT IS THE #STOPSUCKING CAMPAIGN, AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
“About two years ago, the actor Adrian Grenier, who cofounded the @lonelywhale movement, made me aware of all the plastic straws globally. I started seeing them everywhere—even on the beaches in Punta Cana and at the seaside in Cardiff, Wales. Straws are too light to be recycled and are used pointlessly in almost every restaurant. They are adding to the pollution of the Long Island Sound and the oceans and waterways around the world.”
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO SPEARHEAD THIS WORTHWHILE CAUSE?
“After a few years of being hyperaware of straws being used in every glass of water and iced tea I drink, I was sick of seeing them. It’s not always easy to remember to ask them to skip the straw. So, I decided that I could use my social-media platform to at least help motivate our small town of Westport into action. I’m proposing to local vendors and restaurants that I—along with other local influencers and mothers who are very active on social media—will post about their commitment to the cause if they’ll agree to abandon plastic straws in favor of more environmentally friendly options. This includes straws that are stainless steel—which can be cleaned like utensils—paper, and biodegradable.”
HOW CAN FAIRFIELD COUNTY RESIDENTS BECOME INVOLVED?
“Residents can make it a habit, when they order a drink at a restaurant, to ask their server to leave out the straw. Another step my family takes is to eliminate kid cups with lids. It’s a simple enough adjustment that can create a huge difference in the cleanliness of our global waterways. It may seem inconvenient at first, but we have to make it our new normal routine, the way we did with reusable shopping bags.”
WHAT CHANGES CAN LOCAL RESTAURANTS IMPLEMENT TO DO THEIR PART?
“Restaurant owners and managers can forgo plastic straws for steel, paper and biodegradable varieties. They can offer straws ‘by request only,’ which will keep their costs down as well. I also love the idea of coffee shops allowing locals to bring their own mugs or donate mugs to a bin that regular customers can take home to enjoy their hot beverages and then return when they can. In reaching out to restaurants in our area, I’ve learned that many—The Whelk, Jesup Hall, The Cottage, OKO and Terrain—have started initiatives to cut out plastic straws. I’m working on growing that list considerably and rallying our community to do the same.”
ARE THERE MILESTONE GOALS YOU’VE SET IN MAKING A DIFFERENCE?
“My goal right now is to get Westport to commit to going straw-free without waiting for our representatives to write a law about it. It’s common sense that we need to rid our world of single- use plastics. As a town we were among the first to ban plastic bags, so I feel we need to spearhead the #stopsucking movement. Cities all around the world, including Brisbane, Australia—where they banned straws and balloons among other plastics—and soon New York City, are all joining the effort. As an environmentally aware town, we can make this happen right here at home and then expand to a state and nationwide level, even worldwide. It’s time Westport committed to #stopsucking Hey, if saving our oceans isn’t reason enough, straws are also terrible for creating wrinkles around your mouth!”
Ready to take the challenge of not sucking? Save marine life by challenging your friends and social-media followers to #StopSucking. Get details on how to challenge, share and track at stopsucking.strawlessocean.org.
All photographs are contributed.