BOULDER, COLO.—A kid’s voice can go a long way. Just ask Milo Cress, an 11-year-old from Boulder, Colo. Two years ago, Milo noticed that restaurants were automatically giving straws to customers—straws that ended up in the trash and ultimately the landfill. That did not sit right with him. The environmentalist that he is—he developed a solar-powered popcorn machine when he was six—Milo decided something needed to be done. With the help of his family he founded the Be Straw Free Campaign, an effort to encourage foodservice businesses to either eliminate straws altogether or at least transition to an “offer first” policy.
Two years after his effort was launched, Milo is making significant progress. He has been interviewed on CNN twice, on NPR, for national news publications, and the National Restaurant Assn. is an advocate of his “offer first” policy. The Colorado Restaurant Assn. has officially adopted “offer first” and George McKerrow Jr., co-founder and chief executive of casual-dining restaurant chain Ted’s Montana Grill, recently signed an “offer first” pledge that would require diners at his restaurants to ask for drinking straws instead of automatically being given one with their beverage orders.
“This young man single-handedly is addressing an often overlooked environmental issue for restaurants—the vast amount of plastic straws that go into our landfills each day and the decades each straw then takes to biodegrade,” McKerrow said. “We support his goal to let plastic straws be an option for consumers, as they once were, not just an automatic addition to every beverage served. We applaud Milo for his vision and leadership. From young minds often come the very best ideas—ideas from which we can all learn.”
Xanterra Launches ‘Straw Free’ Campaign
Inspired by Milo, on Earth Day, April 22, Xanterra Parks & Resorts launched its “Choose to be Straw Free” program. The campaign will roll out initially at Zion Lodge in Zion National Park, Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, Ariz., Grand Canyon South Rim inside Grand Canyon National Park, The Grand Hotel in Tusayan, Ariz. and Painted Desert Oasis in Petrified Forest National Park.
“We are using the straw to illustrate the choices we all have before us to make a difference every day,” said Catherine Greener, vice president of sustainability for Xanterra.
Building on an existing straw-free sustainability initiative at Xanterra’s lodges, restaurants and attractions in Yellowstone National Park, the following properties will also go straw free: Windstar Cruises, Crater Lake, Rocky Mountain National Parks, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley National Park and five Ohio State Park Lodges.
“Xanterra is being a great role model,” says Milo, who adds that landfills bear the brunt of 500 million straws each day.
International ‘Star’ Status
Milo has become quite a celebrity for his efforts. He recently traveled to Australia where he spoke to 1,500 students. The mayor of Manly, in New South Wales, Australia, declared “offer first” a best practice. Milo will meet with the mayor of Denver later this month and will travel internationally to speak at multiple locations later this year. “I am very thrilled that I am going to go over the world,” he says.
Milo emphasizes that there is no single way a business has to reduce straw waste. “You can customize it to your business,” he says.
Ideally, he would like to see “offer first” be a standard in all foodservice establishments.
As a further demonstration of the “kid power” Milo exemplifies, he and his family will soon launch a website called “Kids Create the Future” that will feature one-minute videos sent in that detail initiatives launched by kids helping to change the world for the better.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.