Miary Rasoanaivo ’18, Earth’s Last Straw, Saratoga Springs, NY

“Earth’s Last Straw? Mmmh… Oh, plastic straws! That’s clever! I read it the wrong way at first” a lady said, passing by our booth at the Farmers’ Market.

English being my third language, I questioned, why did she understand it the wrong way. Then I discovered what “last straw” meant, and I thought well, there is actually something paradoxical about this movement, and in fact about every other environmental activist movement.

From the pessimistic side of things, it is kind of true. Since the mass production of single-use plastics, plastic pollution has only soared in past decades, wreaking havoc mainly for our oceans but also on land. Since then, we have not found a viable solution to effectively deal with this trash, exacerbating their environmental impacts for the 100s of years to come. Nevertheless, on the optimistic side, we have recycling, biodegradable plastics, among others. Most importantly, movements like ELS are raising awareness and convincing people to use less, or preferably none, single-use plastics.

Starting in July we have had the opportunity to present Earth’s Last Straw (ELS) at Saratoga’s Farmers Market. Our goal with this initiative is to get in touch more personally with the community, to learn from people and educate them about our movement, and about the environmental impacts of plastics in general. Raising awareness and communicating through social media has helped the campaign tremendously, but nothing beats a good old face to face conversation.

Representing ELS at Saratoga’s Farmers’ Market, with ELS founder Jill Fecteau

Although our goal was to mainly reach the locals, many people who come to the market at this time of year are just visiting Saratoga. Nonetheless, it does not alter the quality of personal exchanges and encounters we get.

By talking to visitors, we had the chance to get insights from them on how and why they love our movement, how we can grow and expand this initiative. For instance, a lady enthusiastically approached our table one day, she owns an oyster farm in Rhode Island. We had a solid conversation about how indifferent some people are to the plastic pollution issue, especially when they are not directly impacted. In the case of Saratoga for example, since we are not close to the oceans, we tend to not think about how big of a problem plastic pollution is. In this lady’s case, since she practically lives and work by the ocean, they deal with this issue on a daily basis. I recall her saying “we do beach clean ups every other week, and it is a terribly sad situation… the most apparent problem we see are balloons, we don’t even know where all of it comes from, but it’s a great issue”. We ended up asking her to share some photos of the pollution with us, so that we can present a concrete case to our community and stress how this issue concerns all of us.

We also got the chance to connect with more businesses and community partners, which would have not been possible only via emails. One of the bar owners downtown came to the market and talked to us about how his business really wants to transition away from plastic straws. We previously reached out to his business via email, but they did not get back to us. Here we got to build a more solid connection with him, that will serve our future collaboration. Another time, we got to meet the chair of Sustainable Saratoga, who also enthusiastically offered us initiatives where ELS can collaborate with them.

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