Chef Ian Riddick of Long Beach Lodge expresses his hatred of straws. The Lodge recently joined Surfrider’s Straws Suck campaign to help eliminate plastic straws in Tofino.

Local ocean lovers look to kill plastic straws in Tofino

Surfrider Pacific Rim’s Straws Suck campaign aims to nix plastic debris and raise awareness

Straws are environmental disasters and it’s high time we all stopped using them, according to the local Surfrider Foundation chapter.

Surfrider Pacific Rim volunteers are making waves with a new Straws Suck campaign aimed at banishing single-use plastic straws from the mainstream by urging restaurants to eliminate them or provide biodegradable alternatives upon request.

“Single use plastic is an overwhelming norm in our daily lives; its hard to escape its omnipresence,” local Surfrider volunteer Lily Woodbury told the Westerly News. “At this point, we really cannot defend the use of plastic, like straws, if we are going to claim that we care about the ocean.”

The Surfrider Foundation is a North American non-profit organization led by volunteers who are passionate about preserving and protecting local oceans and beaches. The local chapter holds monthly cleanups—the next one is scheduled for April 21—and all locals are encouraged to join the debris-clearing quest.

“We welcome everyone who loves the ocean and the beach. We are not a surf group, we are a mixed group of dog walkers, environmentalists, groms, paddle boarders, beach combers, surfers, swimmers, activists [and] sunset watchers,” local Surfrider volunteer Michelle Hall told the Westerly.

“Volunteers are the lifeline of the organization and we are always looking for passionate people who want to get involved with clean ups, campaigns, and events.”

Hall said the group is going beyond its clean up approach and reaching for more preventive actions like the recently launched Straws Suck campaign, which she hopes will eliminate straws from the local landscape by April 22’s Earth Day celebrations.

“We are positive that we will achieve 100% success in getting Tofino to be the first town in Canada to become plastic straw free,” she said.

“One of the Surfrider Foundation global campaigns is ‘Rise above Plastics’ which work to eliminate single use plastics. That includes things like bags, plastic water bottles, straws, and lots more similar plastic waste that ends up in the ocean. Surfrider Pacific Rim chose straws because it’s totally achievable and fun.”

Woodbury said the foundation helps create closer connections between beach goers and the ocean environments they love.

“The research collected from cleaning up the debris on beaches fosters knowledge on the preventative measures that can be taken to help our oceans thrive,” she said. “The whole process from beach clean ups to campaigns brings the community together to expand awareness and provoke positive change.”

She said the Straws Suck campaign has been well received since launching in February.

“People and businesses generally seem excited to become more environmentally responsible,” she said.

“A couple of locals have expressed how going strawless in their workplace has led them to have conversations with visitors about single use plastic, so this action’s intent will reverberate around the world with the people who travel through here.”

She said the West Coast offers a fantastic setting for an anti-straw campaign because of its locals and landscape.

“There is an outstanding number of passionate and talented individuals who are stoked to be a member of this collective, which is of course founded by our spectacular settings,” she said. “In connection to this, people in Tofino realize how our local community can make a global impact as this area continues to grow as a travelling hotspot; it’s a hip area to both visit and live. We have a real opportunity here to become more ecologically conscious and set standards that can influence the diversity of people that travel here.”

She added the West Coast’s popularity amongst tourists puts it in international sightlines.

“Through travellers and the increasing amount of media attention, Tofino will continue to be a trendsetter for other places to follow,” she said. “This means what we do has the chance to take hold and become popular in other municipalities, and we are using this power to positively transform our community, businesses, and environment.”

Woodbury said local support would be vital to the campaign’s success.

“Locals can help the program to be successful by ending consumption of single use plastic, starting with straws and leading to other products like bags, utensils, and plastic bottles,” she said. “Then, locals can use this change as a way to discuss Surfrider’s campaign and the issue with plastic consumption with travellers communicated with in and outside of the workplace. Ideally, this will inspire more people that live here to get involved with the environment.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the campaign, or the foundation in general, is encouraged to reach out to surfriderpacificrim@gmail.com.