Tofino Goes Strawless for Earth Day

The ‘Straws Suck’ campaign launched by Surfrider Foundation – Pacific Rim chapter, and backed wholeheartedly by Long Beach Lodge Resort, is aiming to rid this iconic West Coast wilderness and surfing town of plastic straws for perpetuity.

By banning straws by Earth Day (April 22, 2016), Tofino joins other well known tourism destinations like London’s SoHo district with its Straw Wars campaign.

Surfrider Pacific Rim has reached out to Tofino business owners, recruited volunteers, created posters, launched a social media campaign, and produced certificates for participating businesses. Video public service announcements are also being produced using local celebrities, and biodegradable straw alternatives have been sourced. 

“We chose straws because they are seemingly innocuous yet have a profound impact on our oceans and beaches,” says Michelle Hall from Surfrider Pacific Rim. “They can’t be recycled, they are only used once and then thrown away, they are one of the top ten pieces of litter picked up on beach clean-ups around the world. By simply saying, ‘no,’ to plastic straws, we can make a big difference. We hope it leads to greater awareness about the impact of plastics in general.”

As well as adding to the litter problem, straws and other plastics kill one million seabirds, 100,000 mammals, and turtles annually when they entangle themselves or ingest plastic pollution, according to scientists.   

Tofino, as one of the top tourism destination towns in Canada, has a year-round population of just over 1,800 people which can swell to more than 22,000 people a day during high season. Its spectacular beaches, remote location, and range of accommodations‎ attracts surfers, beachcombers, birders, and wildlife lovers.  It is also a culinary mecca for Canada, with more than 38 restaurants. Chefs such as Ian Riddick of Long Beach Lodge Resort are aware of the environmental impact if plastics and packaging are not managed properly.

“The whole town is getting behind this initiative, as I think we have all experienced first hand plastics littering our beaches,” says Riddick, who is also expanding his resort’s efforts by ensuring waste plastic is properly contained, disposed of, recycled, and reused. “You multiply the number of drinks we serve on a busy day and even if we only put straws in 25 per cent, you are still talking a lot of single use, plastic waste.”

“As we know from conducting beach clean-ups with the Surfrider Foundation, single-use plastics are one of the biggest issues affecting our oceans and they add tremendous volume to our waste production,” says Jill Doucette, founding partners with Synergy Enterprises, a BC-based corporate sustainability management firm founded on the principle that business can make a positive impact on the planet. “Tofino is tackling this issue at the source by campaigning against the use of straws. We hope this leadership will inspire other municipalities around the world.”