What a turtle taught us

An endangered sea turtle took the conversation of single use plastic straws viral, and to the headlines a couple of weeks ago. Maybe you saw it? Maybe you couldn´t bear to?

In this post I´m going to talk about single use plastic straws. Why they suck, and looking at  amazing examples of simple solutions.

One from a bar in Bristol, the other, from children.


It took a team of Marine Biologist led by Christine Figgener in Costa Rica a pain staking ten minutes to pull the straw out of this endangered olive ridley sea turtles nostril. Thankfully, they filmed and shared the awful experience so many of us can learn by it. If you didn´t see it this is the short version.  (For this turtle there is a happy ending.)

“Plastico!” exclaims one scientist. “Don´t fucking tell me it´s a fricking straw?” Replies the other.

That´s exactly what it was. A 10cm single use plastic drinking straw.  Used one time, to drink one drink from…

I personally tried to ignore it too in my news feed, I was one of those that couldn´t bare to look. That was until my house mate sent it to me directly, with the message,

“I saw this little video a couple of days ago and it made me very sad “

My housemate sent it to me as it upset her. Which is good.  That may sound awful, but what it´s happening to millions of animals out in the oceans (& not just the oceans, birds, cows, camels they´re all suffering)  IS upsetting.

People need to see for themselves, to be upset to make a change.  I never would have, had I not seen equally haunting images that made me sit up and look around. We see haunting images all the time, but the ones I saw that day struck a chord. Why? I don´t know. Maybe because I could see the exact products causing so much harm all around me, a lot of which I didn´t actually need.

Stopping the use of straws isn´t a big change. Let´s face it, not sucking from a straw ain´t gunna kill us!

Plastic free in India“I won´t be using them anymore.”  My house mate said.

Another wrote;  “Poor little mite 😦  looks awful. OK no more straws.”

Even if turtles aren´t your thing, they eat jelly fish. If the endangered turtles go on to become extinct, what will happen to the jelly fish?  Will there numbers explode? Will swimming in the sea be a thing of the past? I hope I never find out…

Refusing straws, like refusing other SUPs (single use plastics) can feel futile. It´s just one straw, what difference can it make?  This is a brilliant example of how one straw can make a difference, to the wildlife ingesting it.

Straws add up. We only need to look around us in any bar or restaurant to see how their usage is out of control.

  • All these straws are manufactured, in Asia probably.
  • Packed in plastic bags.
  • Shipped across the world on huge container ships. I saw Big Blue Live a few of weeks ago. The number of container ships is rising, so is lethal collisions with Blue Whales who do not have defense systems. For millions of years these gentle giants were the biggest creatures in the oceans and have never had to defend themselves against predators.
  • Driven around the country to their destinations.
  • Where they are used for a matter of moments before they enter the waste stream.
  • They go in another plastic bag, a bin bag.
  • Where again they´re transported to the magic place called “away”…

That´s a lot of effort and pollution, not just plastic pollution, simple so we don´t drink out a glass!

Recently Nat & I were having a  meeting at The Canteen for the PALL feature we´re making for Made in Bristol TV.   Nat went and got us tea and cake, and sat back down, “Go and look at their sign!”

“Just say NO to straws. We won´t give you one unless you ask.”

It´s bold. It´s brave. There´s no messin´!  Be tricky to ask for a straw after seeing this on the wall.

And as Bristol is European Green Capital…

Bristol, do you really need one?

So, I thought it fitting to include The Canteen for the PALL feature. Nat interviewed Jamie and found out, by not giving out straws willy nilly, The Canteen are refusing to give out around 120,000 per year. Yep, that´s a lot of zeros!  120,000 per year!!

More or less that´s 350 a day. Which, when you look around that´s easy numbers for a bar to dish out.  The Canteen have been awarded Sustainable Restaurant Associations highest rating of three stars for their commitment to local and ethical suppliers and for their care of people and planet. Which, includes reducing waste. Which includes reducing single use plastic straws.

(The Canteen are provider for the people of Hamilton House and beyond, based on Stokes Croft in Bristol, UK)

The interview aired on Thursday 24th September, you can watch it on Made in Bristol TV catch up Here

Nat & JamieNaturally, a bar refusing to give out straws is going to add up more than an individual refusing them. (unless you can put serious amounts of drink away!)  but individuals refusing straws do add up, as well as sending a message out that we don´t want them, that we can manage, and are happy to drink without them.

“So, who does ask for a straw?”  Nat asked. “Children.” At which point, from behind the camera, my ears twitched. Children. I personally know of a few children who refuse straws. A couple of boys in Portugal and another friend´s daughter who I saw a few weeks ago. Seven year old Scarlett was busting to tell me how she´s refused straws the day before at the pub, for her and her friends. She was proud, and so she should be.

That´s because Scarlett´s educated about single use plastics (I lived with her for 5 months and taught at her school…)  and her natural instinct is to protect animals, which for her, among other things, is refusing straws.  Scarlett´s not the only one, kids love animals. If more children knew where their single use plastic straws can end up, I´d bet we´d hear the echos of “no straw!” ringing around restaurants.

Take Milo, an exceptional example of what a driven 9-year-old has achieved. Thanks to a  Facebook follower, I checked out his site Choose to be Straw Free

Milo Cress is a boy from Canada, who wanted to reduce and possibly eliminate the use of plastic disposable straws in restaurants. So in 2011, at the age of 9, he founded the Be Straw-Free project, which focuses on building awareness about plastic waste and its impact on the environment. Since then, Milo has visited local and international cities around the world, urging restaurant owners to adopt his “Offer First” policy, where straws would be offered first rather than being included automatically with served beverages.

This is a 9-year-old (well – was!) lad. Inspiring stuff indeed. This is him talking…

Milo´s busy, he´s all over it!  He´s been all over the media and magazine. Jetting off to Australia to talk there, universities, meeting congressmen, his list is endless. Two of my personal favorites achievements of Milo´s have to be:

April 2013: Milo returns from first leg of International Speaking Tour to Australia where he spoke at schools and events in Australia. The Mayor of Manly officially declared Offer First a best practice city-wide!

Earth Day 2013: Milo partners with Xanterra to launch Be Straw Free at all their National Park properties.

Incredible. What an inspiration Milo is.

Some people can not fathom the thought of drinking without a straw. If you´re one of them, why not get yourself a nice glass or stainless steel one.

If you´ve read this far, then I have your straw attention…!  This turtles plight can be one to make positive changes, small changes that add up. One tip, is to refuse TWICE. Once when you order, and again when they go off to get your drink. Bartenders and waiters are on straw auto-pilot, so saying it twice helps it stick.

Together, we can turn the tide on pointless single use plastic straws.

Remember, every refusal adds up!


Episode two airs tonight on Made in Bristol TV and streaming live!

Episode two of four of the PALL feature airs tonight on The Source with Natalie Fee. (after it will be available on the player).

Episode two can now be found on Catch up here

This episode we:

  • Follow separated curbside plastics to depot, finding out what happens to it there.
  • Have underwater footage, thanks to Greenpeace
  • Visit Scoop Away
  • and talk about the GRAB campaign, (Gloucester Road Alternative Bag Campaign)
  • There´s £50 of loose products to give away thanks to Scoop Away.
  • AND we announce our competition winners from Episode one for FRANK Water Klean Kanteen water bottles.

It´s a full packed episode for 5 or so minutes!

For Bristol residence you can find Made in Bristol on your TV here:

Freeview no 8, Sky 117 and Virgin 159.

The feature is on The Source at 6.30pm repeated at 9.30pm

For people further afield, it´s streams live at the same times Made in Bristol

Feedback from episode one has been really positive and encouraging, if you missed it it´s here on Made in Bristol TV Player it comes on in the first half and is five minutes, short and sweet!

Here´s a few pictures to give you an idea from this episode…

Episode Three will air next Thursday. Where Nat interviews me…. which will be very brief in the edit if I have my way!!  I show Nat a couple of places to shop PALL in Easton, East Bristol Bakery and Jeevan Sweets.

As well as announcing the winner of the £50 Scoop Away prize and giving away copies of Beth Terrry´s book How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too

Until then, tune in and enjoy tonights feature!


PALL feature on Made in Bristol TV!

For followers who maybe don´t follow my facebook, the First of a Four-part PALL (Plastic A Lot Less) feature airs tonight on TV, on The Source on Made in Bristol TV with Natalie Fee.

The first airs tonight, Monday 14th September at 6.30pm & repeated at 9.30 pm. It´s on catch up here

Yes, on actual TV!  For followers elsewhere it will be available online, I shall share the link when it is.

Made in Bristol can be found on Freeview no 8, Sky 117 & Virgin 159.

I meet Nat when she got in touch with me via Twitter a few months ago. I stalked her online, ie checked her online presence out! and thought… she´s my kinda girl!  Then LitterARTI invited me to be on their interview for Made in Bristol TV on Nat´s show The Source. From that I found out Nat was the executive producer…  So, I got busy and wrote a 4 part feature with Nat in mind, and had it ready for her when we meet.  With no idea how she would respond…. her response was better than I could have dreamed! It´s been awesome working with her, and she´s brought this to life, in more ways than one.

The short features are full of positive PALL things happening around Bristol, and we have competitions for each one with great prizes to give away. Yes, we touched on WHY we´re doing it, of course, but we aim to leave viewers with easy solutions to PALL, as well as tips on how business can save money.

Some incredible people have helped and been willing to take part. Including Miranda Krestovnikoff president of the RSPB and presenter on the One Show.

Here a few images and taster what you can expect from episode one…


For episode two we following our plastics to the sorting depot. Have underwater footage from Greenpeace and interview Scoop Away who are part of the GRAB campaign. (Glouster Road Alternative Bag Campaign)

But until then… please tune in tonight and let your Bristol Buddies know!!

Made in Bristol can be found on Freeview no 8, Sky 117 & Virgin 159.

The first airs tonight, Monday 14th September at 6.30pm & repeated at 9.30 pm.