An Appeal to Restaurant Staff

First of all, if you are a server in a restaurant, I want you to know that I always do my best to tip 20 percent. I think you have one of the hardest, most thankless jobs in the world. And we depend on you. I’m sure I encounter servers at least a hundred times a year. So thank you, for all that you do, and all that you put up with.

Having said that, I’d like to ask you a favor. Could you ask me if I’d like a straw, rather than just giving me one? Because I don’t want one. Here’s why.

According to this article, Americans use more than 500 million straws a day. That’s enough to circle the globe 2 ½ times daily. And the vast majority of these straws are plastic. They’re used once, and then discarded. They wind up in our landfills and in our oceans, and as I have written recently, we are drowning in plastic.

As a server, you are on the front line of plastic straw distribution. You and your colleagues could help stem this plastic tide. That, and you’d be saving your restaurant money. Worth thinking about.

I know you are restricted by certain policies. I get that. If you aren’t allowed to make this change independently, could you at least show your manager this blog post? Hopefully she or he will see the logic in my request.

So, I’ll keep tipping 20 percent for your job well done, if you’ll do your best to fight the battle of the straw. Yes? Excellent! You’re awesome.

(Oh, and while I have your attention, if you’re the type to call me honey, I know you mean well, but could you please just… not? It comes off as condescending. Thanks again.)

Incidentally, if you don’t work in a restaurant, but know someone who does, please spread the word! Education is the key to stemming our plastic tide.

Server with straws

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How We Can Stop Drowning in Plastic

One of the things I love most about this blog is reader feedback. I enjoy reading the comments on the blog itself, and also on my Facebook Group Page. Often I learn quite a bit, and I do my best to respond to everyone.

In my recent post about Ghost Fishing, James suggested I watch a documentary entitled Drowning in Plastic. I was very excited to see that it was available for free on Youtube.

Even so, I have to admit that I was hesitant to watch this documentary. It was fairly obvious to me that it wasn’t going to be upbeat or lighthearted. We have a huge problem with plastic waste on this planet, and this film was going to shine a big old ugly light on it. Did I really want to bear witness to something that I feel so helpless to combat?

But in the end, watch it I did. And yes, it was heartbreaking. And sobering. And scary. But it was also really fascinating to see all the innovative ideas people are coming up with to combat this problem. I can’t possibly do those ideas justice. I suggest you watch the documentary for more details.

But I can share with you some of the many scary facts that I learned while watching.

  • Every minute, around the globe, we buy a million plastic bottles, a million disposable cups, and two million plastic bags. Every minute.

  • Every minute, an entire truckload of plastic ends up in the ocean. Over a year, this adds up to 8 million tons.

  • The vast majority of the plastic that has ever found its way to the ocean is still there.

  • By the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is currently 3 times the size of France, and it’s not the only garbage patch on the planet. It’s just the most infamous one.

  • By 2050, annual production of plastic will have increased by 500 percent.

  • Every time you wash synthetic clothing, more than 700,000 microplastic fibers are released into the environment, and these fibers have been found throughout the food chain, from plankton to walruses in the most remote parts of the arctic. (And if that doesn’t get your attention, this article states that “the average adult consumes 2,000 pieces of microplastic every year from salt alone.”)

But there really are some simple things you can do to reduce your plastic usage:

  • Use a reusable water bottle.

  • Use reusable grocery bags.

  • Use a reusable coffee cup.

  • Stop using straws entirely.

  • Provide your own container and cutlery for takeout food.

  • Pack your own lunch.

  • Choose ice cream cones instead of cups. (No cup waste, no spoon.)

  • Avoid buying synthetic clothing.

  • Don’t buy plastic toys for your pets.

  • Use bar soap and bar shampoo rather than liquid soap and shampoo from plastic containers.

  • Refill printer cartridges.

  • Get a water filter and drink from the tap instead of buying bottled water.

  • Don’t chew gum. Gum is made of a synthetic rubber, which is a plastic.

  • Encourage manufacturers to reduce plastic packaging for their products.

  • Use a razor with replaceable blades instead of a disposable razor.

  • Buy detergent and soaps that come in cardboard boxes rather than plastic.

  • Use matches instead of a plastic disposable lighter. Better yet, don’t smoke at all, as cigarette butts contain plastic.

  • Buy food from bulk bins, using reusable bags, to avoid packaging.

  • Participate in river and shoreline cleanup efforts.

  • Recycle.

  • Shop locally to reduce plastic packaging.

  • Talk to your friends and family about our plastic problem.

Together we can make a difference. We can, and we must.

Great-Pacific-Garbage-Patch

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Racing Extinction

In my timeworn tradition of being years behind trends, I just saw an amazing documentary from 2015 on Hulu. It’s called Racing Extinction, and it’s both beautiful and horrifying. It has forever changed the way I look at the world.

The cinematography is stunning. Many of the people involved in this documentary also worked for National Geographic. That pretty much tells you all you need to know about this film’s quality.

It moved me to tears more than once. The first time was when they played the recording of the very last O’o bird singing a mating song that would never, ever be answered. Then there were the views of hundreds of thousands of shark fins on a roof in Hong Kong, and footage of sharks with their fins chopped off, struggling to swim to get air through their gills, only to eventually suffocate. And the sight of majestic manta rays fighting for their lives in hour-long battles with fishermen made me want to scream.

At this point I’ve probably convinced you not to see this documentary, but I urge you to change your mind. It will open your eyes. It shows you incontrovertible evidence of the methane we release into the atmosphere every day. It shows how this methane is making the oceans more acidic, and how this acid dissolves seashells. It demonstrates how this is killing the phytoplankton that produces more than half the oxygen we breathe. As the film says, “Your life depends on the oceans breathing.”

It also says that “if every American skipped meat and cheese just one day a week for a year, it would be like taking 7.6 million cars off the road.” (I’m managing to be meat-free 3 to 4 days a week, but that doesn’t let you off the hook.)

But more than anything, it shows the gorgeous way they are educating all of us about this crisis. Check out their website to see the videos they have displayed on the side of the Empire State Building, for example. Absolutely stunning. The website also suggests ways you can help slow down this man-made mass extinction that is happening all around you, even as you read this. Please help.

stock-photo-116912529
Copyright Jon Brumbaug

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