The Last Straw?
A Colorado boy aims to reduce the use of plastic straws
Milo Cress started the Be Straw Free campaign at age 9. (Courtesy www.ecocycle.org)
Milo Cress was only 9 years old when he noticed that restaurants often served him drinks with plastic straws already in them. Milo thought this was a huge waste because he didn’t want the straws. So he decided to do something about it.
In February 2011, Milo approached a restaurant owner in Burlington, Vermont, where he lived at the time. He asked the owner to consider offering straws to customers instead of serving them automatically. The owner agreed—and Milo’s Be Straw Free campaign was launched. Its goal is to make this straw-efficient practice standard in restaurants around the world.
The campaign has already had a lot of success. Many restaurants throughout the U.S. and in 30 other countries are now offering straws instead of just giving them out. The Mayor of Burlington signed a public proclamation encouraging all restaurants in the city to adopt the “offer first” policy. And the National Restaurant Association has recognized Milo’s campaign and encourages restaurants to participate.
THE PERILS OF PLASTIC
About 500 million plastic straws are used each day in the U.S. That’s about one-and-a-half straws each day per person.
“This would fill more than 46,400 large yellow school buses per year!” says Milo.
And those numbers don’t include all the little straws that come on the sides of juice and milk boxes.
Since plastic straws are often not recycled, they clog landfills and turn up in oceans and other places. They take hundreds of years to break down, and in the process they release harmful chemicals. By offering straws first, restaurants can help keep these chemicals out of the environment and save money.
Milo, who now lives in Longmont, Colorado, wants to expand the campaign even further. In July, he partnered with Eco-Cycle, a waste-reduction organization in Boulder, Colorado.
In November, Milo will speak at a conference in Dallas, Texas, where he’ll try to convince leaders of the largest restaurant chains in the U.S. to adopt the offer-first policy. And next March, he’ll go on his first international speaking tour, which will include stops in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and New Zealand. He will speak to about 5,500 kids at schools along the way.
Milo is thrilled about Be Straw Free’s success and is proud that it has inspired other kids.
“I thought no one would want to listen to a kid’s idea,” says Milo. “But if your idea is . . . good . . . . people of all ages will listen to you.”