One Cup At A Time Campaign
The daunting issue of plastic waste in the worlds oceans is way out of hand. This is not news – the facts that we’ve got enormous “trash islands” in our Oceans, that 95% of sea life (turtles, birds, mammals, etc) have some amount of plastic embedded in their digestive tracts don’t seem to have enough power to stop us from continuing usage of unnecessary disposable plastics. Micro-plastics are potentially an even bigger issue, with a possibility of clogging the pipes in the world’s planktonic stock. We’re just two people, Stell & Snuggs, musicians touring via a 43′ sailing vessel. The sea is our home, the ocean our backyard. How can two people put a dent in this issue?
Man owns Caribbean beach bar. Man needs cups for his bar, so he takes boat to the larger island to buy cups and brings them back. This takes several hours and much toil. Man opens bar for the day, which happens to be visited mostly by tourists on boats (that is the best way to get to an island, as I understand). Sailor-folk come to harbor, park their boat, and get up to the bar. Sailor-folk have a few afternoon cocktails, served in convenient and super-clean disposable plastic cups with pretty little non-functional red straws. Beautiful sunset, nice buzz. Sailor-folk leave beach bar to eat dinner.
Bartender-man cleans up bar at the end of the night. He throws the cups in the trash, also conveniently a plastic bag, and piles it up for the next day. There are a few cups and straws that were blown into the sea during the ordeal, but not big deal. Cost of doing business.
The next day, Bar-man needs more cups. He puts the trash bag in his boat and drives to the main island, where the trash is burned in an incinerator. He goes to the store to buy more cups, and goes back to the beach bar to re-open again.
As musicians who tour via sail, and spend much of our time in this region, it pains us to watch this waste – to see it end up in the sea even in small amounts. So we’ve decided to make a difference.
It’s a cycle that happens daily in the Virgin Islands during the busy tourist season, and in an area nearly 1,000 square miles with over 60 islands and 200 miles of coastline, there are literally hundreds bars, restaurants, and resorts directly at the edge of the sea. The number of visitors to these areas each year is astonishing, and those traveling directly by a boat of some sort throughout the Virgin Islands number close to 100,000 per year. If that many people have one drink in a plastic cup during their stay, that’s 100,000 cups. If they all stay for one week and have one drink per day, that is 700,000 cups. 3 drinks per day, that’s 2.1 million cups…you get the point. And the unfortunate reality is that most of these venues do not use reusable glass. Like most of the tourism/ entertainment/ hospitality industry, disposable is just the way things are done.
As Entertainers, this issue has become a thorn in our side – an unwilling by-product of our line of work. Of course, many venues around the world are truly starting to go green – but this process is slow, and based off of each individual venue’s philosophy and fiscal standing. Collectively changing the minds of the many venues we perform for throughout the year is a near impossibility. But maybe change can be affected on the consumer end, somehow…
What if just the sailor-folk all had a cool cup to take with them to every bar? What if the bar thought the idea was so cool (and saved the Bar-man some time and money) that they offered some great deals on drinks for anyone who brought the cups to shore? If we could target say 40,000 sailor-folk and get these cool cups in their hands, we could be talking about a real difference. Let’s say those 40,000 sailor-folk have an average of 3 drinks per day in a disposable cup of some sort. Let’s say we can get them to use a cool cup ⅓ of the time. If they all stay only one week, that’s 280,000 less plastic cups and straws that go into the waste system here.
Why the VIrgin Islands? We perform here, alot – plain and simple. It’s geography allows us to tour via sail with great ease, and we have connected in a real way with the sailing community down here. We have an opportunity to do some good with the clout that we have built up over the last 4 years. What we don’t want is a wasted project, though. We’re talking about tons (literally) of cups. The solution to distributing them is really simple.
To get the cups into the hands of wayward sailor-folk, we have partnered with The Moorings, a “bareboat” charter company based throughout the world, much of whom’s business is based in the British Virgin Islands. They have agreed to get one cup on each chartered vessel for each guest, and take part in pushing the concept to their guests. Their charter company’s visitation stands at nearly 40,000 per year in the British Virgin Islands alone, and through this partnership the success of the project is highly tangible. And along the way, we might get that many more people thinking about simple ways that they can better the planet with very basic decisions.
Stakeholders in this effort stretch beyond the sea turtles and sea birds who will have that much less waste in their habitats. Through this project their is money to be saved on both of the human side. Some local businesses have already agreed to offer some incentives for sailor-folk to bring the cups ashore (½ off drinks/ etc). The businesses buy and waste less plastic, saving money and time on the supply and disposal side of their daily operations. Visiting guests save a little bit on their sundowners, all while doing a little good deed for the environment. One drink at a time, we make a size able impact on wasteful plastic use. EVERYBODY WINS.
Cleaner coastal waters. Less waste. More party.
HOW IT WILL WORK:
The dough – where’s it going? $60,000 is a lot of money.
$50,000: Cups. Lots and lots of cups. Cool ones, enameled metal camp-style ones that are nearly indestructable. They last a long time, don’t break down into little bits of plastic, and have the power make an immediate impact while changing a few minds along the way. This gets us 40,000 cups and the handles the shipping cost.
$10,000: Just giving the cups away isn’t enough. We need to make sure that those 40,000 cups are USED. They’re not just for pretty, not some gift to take home. People need to TAKE THEM ALONG. They need to understand that doing this makes them cool – no, awesome. It’s a hassle – you want to go to a bar on your vacation and have a good time. You’ve got your sunblock, towels, snorkel gear, all that stuff. Even if a cup is a small thing, it’s one more thing. We’ll be producing a video blog over the course of this summer, where we illustrate what it takes to not bring any disposable plastics on board while we tour. That means no wrapped or bagged veggies, fruits and meat, no bagged snacks (cookies, chips, etc). We can’t say that we will be entirely successful, we’re sure that there will be something that we have to purchase (toothpaste, maybe?), but we’ll make that reality clear. We’ll also be working with the tourism commission as well as radio and print publications to promote the cup campaign, getting the word out in every way we possibly can to make it a success. There will be an online tool that we can use to get the best estimates of how many plastic cups and straws we’ve kept out of the loop over the course of the campaign, where you can see how much of a difference your donation is making.
The seas of the world are ever connected, and if we can make any difference at all, we must do it now. If not for ourselves, to preserve our most precious resources for our children and 7 generations beyond.