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plastic straw pollution
Straws collected from DC's waterways in one day by the Alice Ferguson Foundation clean up.

Trash. Waste. Carbon footprint. Guilt. Capitalism. Ugh. It can all get overwhelming for me because I care. I care about all of it. When I feel overwhelmed, there are two things I do in rapid succession: Plan and Take Action. It makes me feel much better when I’m in motion, moving towards something, rather than drowning in self-inflicted inertia. 

A bit of history. I never used plastic straws in our Farmers restaurants. From the very beginning (2008), we used compostable straws and we had (and still have) a compost program. A few years ago, I learned that if a bioplastic compostable straw goes into the regular trash or ends up in a stream or the ocean, it behaves like a regular plastic straw – lasting for hundreds of years. So, I decided I had to do better than compostable. We made the change to paper and hay straws so that we had a straw that was rapidly bio- and marine-degradable. Then, as I continued to learn more about plastic pollution and its impact on the planet and on humanity, I felt paralyzed, but quickly realized I needed to do something. 

How could I ever explain to my kids that I stood by, allowing the world to fill up with trash, and I did nothing to try to combat it other than run our business in an enviro-friendly way? I’ve taught them that silence is never an option when a problem presents itself. I’ve taught them to get involved, protect people, stand up for what’s right, and never be a bystander when something bad is going down.

Plastic pollution has serious consequences. Ugh. Inertia? PLAN and ACT.

I decided I needed to go outside the four walls of our restaurants and spread not just the word, but solutions. Supply chain solutions. Public education solutions. Business-centric solutions. Regulatory solutions

Our Last Straw was born. While I knew nothing about starting a non-profit, I knew that with a mission, motivation, and an amazing team, we could do anything.

And here’s the thing. Yes, I know straws are small. I know they are a tiny part of the massive single-use plastic tragedy of how we humans are destroying our planet. But they aren’t insignificant. They are in the top 10 of marine debris. Plus, and here is why they matter to me, they require behavioral change by all of us to #StopSucking mindlessly. Straws allow us to raise awareness that plastics are wreaking havoc on our planet – they are the wake-up gateway plastic to the big picture.

The more awareness and resistance there is to the mindless plastic consumption, the more businesses, including manufacturers, researchers, and investors, will be motivated to come up with solutions. Ask many of the traditional plastics manufacturers where they are putting their research dollars. We know: Into better single-use plastic alternatives. That didn’t happen by accident or because they wanted to come up with alternatives. It happened because buyers of their products (end users and retail businesses) are starting to demand it.

There is power in individual straws, individual choices, and individual actions… and that power is massively magnified when we plan, take action, and become a focused, sensible coalition.


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