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!


Partying PALL – Plastic A Lot Less

We’ve just had New Year, so maybe I should post this in a month or two, when people have given up the fitness kick and wanna go out again.  Though in the Southern Hemisphere it´s Summer, so party time!

When I look at other blogs sometimes I get the impression people are perfect and live pintrest wholesome lives. Well I’m not and I don’t.  This is a subject close to my heart, I like going out & partying, I love a good boogie. OK, currently I’m not partying like in the past, I’m not and never have been as hardcore as I’d like to be, but that’s not to say the “feral party chick” (as myself and a couple of other friend were once known…) has gone forever.

So can you party AND PALL?  Yes you can. I’ve done it, many a time over the last six years. Remembering we’re talking PALL-ing  Plastic A Lot Less. Not plastic free here (though that’s possible).

I totally understand when you’re letting your hair down plastic in the oceans isn’t the first thing on your mind, but partying is enjoyed by a lot of us, that’s a lot of plastic. Every day I went on the beach in Portugal I´d see plastic cups that had washed up.

If you’ve thought of it before you’ve left the house, you can just get on with it while you’re out. You remember your keys, you remember your phone, your lippy, you can remember a couple of others things and after a few times it becomes habit.

(OK, if you’re at the age/stage where even standing up and remembering your name is a problem when you’re out, then forget it, but if you can do that then you can manage.)

You may be the only one not drinking or eating from plastic, I have been many a time, not always, but a lot. I can handle being the odd one out and not following the crowd. The apologies from friends at one point did (after 4 years!) get a bit much. Though it was after that I talked with Arrifana Restaurant and they commissioned the mugs in the header picture, Saving 5000-6000 single use plastic cups, every year!  No plastic cups, also means no apologies! Had friends taken mugs along and not apologised to me a thousand times I might not have spoken with them, so it was worth it in the end!

Depending on where you’re going or what you’re doing means you need to consider different things:

  • If you´re going out, or out out. 
  • If there’s food involved
  • A festival, for the day or weekend
  • House party as a guest or a host

I´ll discuss them all here so scroll down & hopefully you´ll find what you´re looking for. Let me know in the comments what you do to PALL – Plastic A Lot Less – your partying!

A night out on the town is pretty simple

  • Request your drinks without straws. Easy.  Do straws add up to that much? Yes they do, or they wouldn’t wash up with every tide.
  • If you´re getting a cocktail that you feel needs a straw to stir, a caipirinha for example, ask for a spoon instead. It´s the stirring you need, not the sucking.
  • Take a small bottle of water with you, alternatively ask for tap water at the bar, in a glass or a mug if they have a coffee machine.
  • Food at the end of the night, depending what takes your fancy, all though most chippies have now opted for polystyrene most still have paper too. Ask for your food to be in that, rather than a clam shell for every portion of chips. If you’re a burger type of person, again ask for paper.
  • If you go to a fast food outlet and you need a drink, get the drink without the lid or the straw.

Local festival where there’s food involved.

There are loads of these in Portugal. Every week in Summer is one festival or another. Be it the festival of the sweet potato, the sweetcorn or the chestnut. I love these festivals, where every one turns up and hangs out together, but boy is there some plastic involved. They are literally drowning in SUPs – single use plastics.  When there’s food involved and there’s no fixed bar I admit it takes more effort, but these efforts really add up.

Lets not forget also, eating and drinking from single use plastic, is not only polluting, it’s horrible to eat and drink from!

  • Firstly, you need something to drink from. A metal mug works great as it’s light and won’t break when you drop it. (not saying you’ll drop it, but you never know). Try if you can to get one with an official measure so it doesn’t look as if your only reason to use it is to blag more booze. If you can’t, just explain you don’t need it full to the top, just what they’d usually pour. Be aware – they may use a plastic cup as a measure, which they’ll then throw straight in the bin, so be nice, you’re really not on the blag you just don’t want plastic. (You’ll find you often do end up with more booze, after the first one, Brucie bonus!)
  • Eating – Plates, knives & forks. This helps if you’re a woman and don’t mind carrying a huge handbag about. Alternatively put them in a canvas bag. Don’t take your Nan’s best china. Stock up at the charity shop, you can pick up plates and cutlery for nothing, then if you do forget them it’s not the end of the world. If you’re not worried about losing them, if and when you lose you mind, consider some nice metal camping style ones.
  • Water – take your water bottle filled up with you.Or if there´s a tap, drink from that.

The Medieval Festival in Silves in Portugal is a festival like no other, here it´s all beautiful terracotta!



When was the last time I camped at a festival (without the luxury of a camper?)  I do remember, it was a very long time ago! Maybe I’m not currently the best person to talk about festivaling, but in the past this is what I´ve done.

(the above pictures are thanks to Liz. Who remembered to take a camera and used it!)

  •  I would – like I have in the past at festivals take my mug. If I was staying a few days, I’d take a few… just in case I lost them ( I find them at bootsales & charity shops).
  • Water. This time I would leave my Klean Kanteen at home (I lost a Klean Kanteen at a festival once, which was annoying as it was both a present and expensive.) Next time I learnt and sourced a cheaper water bottle.
  • I struggled at at the last festival I went to to get in with my metal bottle, as it was metal. I explained why I had it, still they wasn’t having any it. So I  – politely, but firmly asked to speak to who was ever in charge at the gate. I can’t remember exactly, I was probably already a bit squiffy, but then they let me in. It helped being nice, I had it for a reason, which I explained (The festival was very close to the Atlantic) they did recognize that once I was willing to take it further and not just give in.
  • Water costs a fortune at festivals, the extra 5 minutes at the gate was worth saving the money and also, time queuing for water once in.
  • I opted to eat at stalls with no packaging, or ate things that I could hold. I ask for paper. Maybe even take newspaper or paper bags with you, they’re light enough.
  • I always have a stash of almonds with me, generally where ever I go as well.
  • If I was going to camp, with out a camper next time I would try to find one of those huge metal water drums and take that with me (the one we used in the camper was glass). I’m not sure to be honest what else I’d do. Beth Terry of My Plastic Free Life does an amazing job at The Burning Man festival, so obviously it can be done!  This is what she does here:  My Plastic Free Life. Burning Man Festival, part 1.

House Parties – As A guest

House parties are a difficult one. You don’t want to be rude. Generally over the last few years house parties I’ve gone to I’ve known the people so it’s easy. They know me, if I get a plate out of the cupboard people are used to that. Also some friends have stopped using Single Use Plastics – SUPs at parties :-).

Recently though I went to a party of someone I didn´t know, being taken by a friend of a friend who I also didn´t know. It was in Cambodia, I have posted about the plastic in Cambodia here. Traveling PALL I noticed it was all single use plastic so, when the guy asked me what cocktail I wanted I offered to help. Once in the kitchen I asked for a ´bigger´ cup. No one can argue with bigger! (Personally I don´t think it´s rude to ask for a bigger cup, it makes perfect sense).  We had a laugh while making cocktails, so it also worked out a good way to get to know my host.

When the food came round it was a meat chilli (I had been warned & eaten before I went) had it been veggie, I probably would have asked – nicely for a normal plate, and made sure I´d washed it up. If not I would have re-used a friends after they´d finished, saving one set from being used at least. There was cheesecake going around, (I forgot about the eggs in cheesecake, whoops) & just ate off my hands. I´d eaten it within 30 seconds, so really didn´t need a plate or fork of any kind.

House party – as a host

Back in the day myself and house mates hosted quite a number of big house parties, they were SUPs affairs, I wasn´t to know then. It´s obvious isn´t it, who wants to wash up after a house party?  The last one I held, I did!  Now I´d rather a bit (OK, a lot) of washing up and mess rather than sending bags of SUPs cups, plates and crockery to landfill/the ocean.  I just had to have a re-think of what to do., I talk about it under the pictures. It was a fantastic party, as well as being PALL!
(I wasn´t blogging at the time so didn´t record any of the PALL efforts.)

  • The cups. I borrowed a load of glasses from a friend, who´d recently had a 40th & also didn´t use SUP cups (we are adults, who wants to drink out of crappy cups anyway?)
  • (I made sure there was a dustpan and brush close by, just in case.)
  • I simply didn´t buy or provide any straws.
  • Plates I asked every one to bring a bottle AND 2 plates, one with food, one without. (I have to say for this party people went all out & the food was lovely!)
  • Cutlery. For some reason the owners of the house left enough for a party 4 times the size. If not, I´d have borrowed some or picked some up at a bootsale or charity shop.
  • I borrowed fairy lights and decorations.
  • I bought vodka that had metal lids.( Thankfully they also didn´t have the plastic pourer thing inside, but that was more luck than judgement, you’re never to know who´s put them in unless you remember the brand.)
  • I stocked up on fresh strawberries from the local market, in cardboard boxes and froze them in advance (to go with the vodka.)
  • I borrowed a fridge and a freezer a couple of weeks before.
  • I prepped ice, just making it in tubs then smashed some before & some on the night.
  • On the day I made lemonade. I´d never done that before and it was easy & tasty!
  • I got a couple of boxes of oranges (this was in the Algarve) & juiced them.
  • (Naturally, I bought everything using canvas bags or old cardboard boxes.)
  • The real drinks. On the night myself & friends blended the strawberries and mixed with sugar & vodka. The strawberries worked a treat to cover the taste of the cheap vodka, and people loved it and enjoyed themselves!
  • This was a massive FAIL though. I should have blended the strawberries before the actual night. Instead we overworked the blenders, to the point where 2 blew up. Not good on the PALL side of things. I did after manage to replace them secondhand, but still I´d rather not have blown them up in the first place!
  • The cake was one of the most amazing cakes ever made. It also was one of the tastiest, which is not normally the case. (It was made with a friends free range eggs.) Though on the PALL side of things was also a FAIL. Bumma!  The part that wasnt cake (the top) was polystyrene underneath. The girl who made it was lovely, I´m going to send her this & see if she can find another way in future.
  • I offered friends beds and sofas.  They in turn helped me tidy up the next day, and made breakfast!
  • I dusted down the dishwasher that I never used otherwise, and it was pretty busy that day.


Talking to a bar, event or organisers.

Of course taking our own mugs and cups to events over times really adds up, but there is more we can also do: talk to the organizers. I briefly mentioned Arrifana Resturant  at the beginning of this post. Arrifana restaurant now have customised beautiful terracotta mugs. Saving 5000-6000 single use plastic cups, every year!  That´s PALL-ing on a massive scale!


Then there´s the other naughty thing that goes hand in hand with drinking. Assuming my Mum hasn´t got this far down, but just incase, hypothetically speaking what can you do?  Cigarette butts, if you didn´t already know – are plastic.  There´s nothing good to be said about them… we´ve been told a million times before, what more can I say?  In Portugal you can smoke PALL. Look around for tobacco in paper, use cardboard as roach hey presto! A box of matches works too, or possibly a zipper, not sure how you re-fill them though.  (Please note; I’m not suggesting smoking is good or rollies are better for your health.  I’m talking about PALL-ing, this isn’t a post about health tips.)

Let me know how you PALL your partying, I’d love to hear from you!

 Every refusal adds up. Happy partying!! Happy PALL-ing!