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Call To Action: Join The ‘No Straw’ Movement Today

Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. is part of Denver’s Sustainable Neighborhood Program. We met early this year to brainstorm and begin building a plan for each of the categories within the program. Energy, Air, Water, Land and People are our five target areas.

Participating neighborhoods earn program credits for their efforts and, depending on the number of credits earned in a given year, they may receive designation as a “Participating Sustainable Neighborhood” or an “Outstanding Sustainable Neighborhood” from the city of Denver. Within just a couple months of joining the program, our neighborhood already met the criteria for Outstanding Neighborhood.

In past columns you my have read my plea for us all to stop using plastic straws. I am again submitting that request, not only to individuals but also our neighborhood restaurants.

First, some background: In the United States, we use 500 million plastic straws every single day. That’s enough to encircle the earth 2.5 times. Many of these straws end up in the environment and in our oceans, where they create widespread pollution and are fatal to marine life. Plastic straws are one of the top 10 most common trash items found on beaches worldwide.

Now, let’s look to Boulder for some inspiration. People living in Boulder recently sucked through about 175,000 plastic straws every day. In 2016, a group called Colorado Ocean Coalition launched a local effort there, called Suck the Straws Out.

The idea of the campaign came to light when Toula Georgakopoulos, the owner of Taco Junky, a hip restaurant on The Hill in Boulder, stumbled upon a video showing the harm that plastic straws can do to marine life. She thought about how her restaurant might take a small step, which would have big consequences. On Aug. 1, 2016, Taco Junky went straw-free.

Georgakopoulos soon partnered with others who were also addressing plastic pollution, including the Colorado Ocean Coalition, Shared Paths, and Verde Azul. The groups collaborated to create a campaign to eliminate single-use plastic straws in Boulder. The campaign targets restaurants, coffee shops, small businesses, and the community at large. Since going straw free, Taco Junky has saved 13,000 straws on average per month from entering the waste stream.

Change moves outward in ripples, and Suck the Straws Out seeks to bring the empowering message that one small change for every business has a great impact on our waters and the life they support – from our local rivers and streams all the way to the sea.

The first target city was Boulder. Colorado Ocean Coalition has since expanded the campaign to include other cities in Colorado, including Denver and Salida. The campaign closely mirrors efforts to reduce plastic pollution that are happening in many other towns, cities and states across the country.

Here in Denver, Adelita’s on Broadway has already eliminated plastic straws in their restaurant. In Park Hill, Phoenician Kabob has stopped serving plastic serving tubs for condiments. These small changes go along way in reducing our single use plastic waste.

I am asking all our neighbors, as well as Park Hill restaurants, to take the following pledge – today.

Individuals

1.  The next time you’re at a restaurant, simply say, “No straw, please.”

2.  If you want to use a straw, bring a reusable one with you.

3.  Encourage your favorite restaurants to join the movement.

4.  Spread the word to your friends and family.

Restaurants

1. Make a commitment to stop offering plastic straws in your restaurant. If people ask for a straw, offer a paper or reusable alternative.

2. Take the Pledge by going to www.inlandoceancoalition.org  and click on What We Do, Campaigns, Suck the Straws Out.

3. Use the materials provided in the campaign packet to promote the movement at your restaurant.

Encourage other restaurants in your area to join! We are hoping to sign up our great restaurants here in Park Hill and citywide to eliminate plastic straw use, as well as single-use plastics.

If you have taken the pledge, please let me know at chair@greaterparkhill.org.

Tracey MacDermott is chair of the board of Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. Active in the Registered Neighborhood Organization for many years, MacDermott was the 2012 recipient of the Dr. J. Carlton Babbs Award for Community Service. This year she received the INC Neighborhood Star Award for 2017, for her advocacy on behalf of Park Hill. She was trained as a Climate Reality Leader in 2017.


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