Melissa Joan Hart Wants Westport To #StopSucking

America knows Melissa Joan Hart as an actress — the star of sitcoms like “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and “Melissa & Joey.”

Westporters know her as our neighbor. Like moms all around town, she cares about the environment, and the world we’re leaving our kids.

Melissa Joan Hart, with her family.

One of her major concerns is plastic straws. They’re too light to be recycled, and are one of the most common pollutants found in waters — on Compo Beach, in Long Island Sound, everywhere really.

Melissa is not alone. Other Westporters are working to eliminate plastic straws. Internationally, a Plastic Free July Foundation — based in Australia — is taking aim at all single-use plastics.

But Melissa has taken special action. Spurred by the knowledge that ours was the first town east of the Mississippi River to ban plastic bags, 10 years ago — a move many other communities have emulated — she’s beating the bushes to get restaurants to stop using plastic straws.

Or, to use her favorite hashtag: #stopsucking.

The idea, Melissa says, is for restaurants to move to “straws on request only” — and use alternatives like bamboo, paper, pasta or stainless steel straws. Another option: Patrons can carry reusable straws.

A number of leading restaurants are already on board. Melissa has commitments from The Spotted Horse, Gray Goose, Arogya, Jesup Hall, The Whelk, The Cottage and OKO.

She’s working on Terrain, Amis, Bartaco, Granola Bar and Tarantino’s. Then she’ll keep going, through all our many restaurants and other food places. (She’s got an ally in Westport Farmers’ Market director Lori Cochran).

But that’s not all. Melissa wants influential Westporters to post each restaurant that makes the #StopSucking promise, and drive traffic there.

If it’s posted to Instagram accounts like @LonelyWhale, @LifeWithoutPlastics and @Take3fortheSea, the campaign can reach far beyond Westport, she says.

Melissa Joan Hart loves living, raising her kids — and dining — here.

She’ll love it even more when we all #StopSucking.

24 responses to “Melissa Joan Hart Wants Westport To #StopSucking

  1. Doug Fierro

    I love this. Great job…One other request, the unintended consequence of nonplastic bags is the terrible waste of paper bags at traders joe grocery store. They DOUBLE BAG nearly every order. Please ask them to stop doing that and please bring a reusable bag or buy one for 99cents! Thanks

  2. We have ordered the paper straws at Winfield Street Coffee & Deli. They’re much more expensive than plastic, but it is a step in the right direction. We will still carry stainless steel straws for people with muscle disabilities, since the paper straw is a bit too flimsy for some people to suck through.

    We are considering solutions for the plastic cups used for cold drinks, including paper cold cups.

    And looking for a solution for small water bottles and other drinks. Soft drinks sales are an important of our revenue, but it pains me the amount of plastic being thrown out, even if they’re recycled, with that.

    • Danielle Dobin

      So glad to know this. Another reason to love the Winfield Deli! It is very thoughtful of you to consider those who need a the stainless straws because of disabilities.

  3. JP Vellotti

    While I agree straws are generally unecessary, I just can’t agree they are one of the most common pollutants in Long Island Sound. I’m on the water every day, and what we see much more commonly are balloons and plastic bags, followed by old shotgun shells and plastic bottles of all sorts, from water bottles to suntan lotion bottles. Even without caps these still float.

    And yes, plenty of reusable shopping bags from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are floating out there too, especially the ones with the insulated bubble panels.

    Simple solution: Don’t throw anything into Long Island Sound.

  4. Matthew Mandell

    She should work with RTM Member Andrew Colabella who has been working on this very issue and is putting together an ordinance.

    I used an Aardvark paper straw the other day at Bobby Qs. It was strong and lasted through my drink and refills.

  5. Alan Phillips

    Thank you Melissa. Well done.

    I wish we were able to charge people for paper bags so more would carry reusable ones.

  6. Excellent – received a paper straw at Terrain last night!

  7. Larry Langer

    Thank you Melissa and Dan. Plastic in the ocean is a pet peeve of mine and you have given me new avenues for action.

  8. Andrew Colabella

    Since January, when I was brought on to the RTM Environment Committee, I was intrigued by the NetZero 2050 plan, a campaign that 1200 towns in the New England have joined, vowing to become not only self sustainable but to produce zero waste in efforts to fight the global crisis of unnecessary waste.

    Growing up I had my own pet peeves about waste, coming from a family who ran private sanitation in manhattan, and had one of the first recycling facilities in Hoboken, NJ. Plastic straws irked me. If I have to use a straw to drink from a glass at a Restaurant because I don’t want to catch germs, what about plates? That’s some people’s excuse. However, restaurants, bartenders, and staff drop the straw in without asking. Myself and most people either remove it or bend it back so it doesn’t get in our way of contact.

    Let’s think, it’s a complimentary product that costs less than a penny to make, is non biodegradable and will last for hundreds of years if disposed of improperly in the environment and is used frivolously and given to the patron without consent.

    So, in January I presented to the RTM environment committee my commitment to start researching.

    The United States uses an estimated 500 million straws a day. 500 million non biodegradable plastic straws a day. Some aren’t even actually used, but once unwrapped and dropped into the drink that’s it. Done. One restaurant in Boulder, CO, Taco Junky, estimated a use of 13,000 straws in one month!

    Are ya bothered by this yet?

    My research was building. And little by little I’ve watched the west coast, once again, lead the USA in change. Some banning plastic straws and products like Malibu, CA or even Davis, CA and Portland, OR supply straws but you must ask for them.

    The campaign I started in January/February was to make the switch BUT the patron would have to ask for one.

    Tommy Febbraio, famous Fairfield county restaurant owner surprised me on my birthday with paper straws. That was the first restaurant I had seen to use paper straws. But then immediately, they ran out and every distributor that I was speaking to, and my own personal efforts to help restaurants make the switch I could not find any biodegradable straws. They had been wiped out clean. But I continued on in my efforts to research and find them.

    A few weeks have gone by and I still continued my campaign meeting with restaurant owners and managers to make the switch. I then contacted Liz Milwe, one of the major spearheads in a plastic bag ban of 2008 to help me draft an ordinance. You’re an inch wood in fact ban plastic straws nonbiodegradable food service products and finally Styrofoam products. Our goal is to meet the 2050 zero waste standards Before or by that time.

    It wasn’t until a few weeks later that Mr. Febbraio confronted me explaining that a particular special person of interest in Westport had spoken to him about plastic straws. That special person was Melissa Joan Hart. She was aware that some young guy in westport had started this campaign but couldn’t remember my name. Well I was given her contact information and before I knew, I was talking to One of my favorite actresses as I grew up watching Nicolodi and religiously such as Clarissa explains it all myself one of my favorite shows next to Pete and Pete and salute your shorts. She expressed much interest in my work and while she is on vacation I promised to keep moving forward and keep her in contact with restaurants that I’ve switch.

    We’re up to 14 restaurants as of today.

    Chef Bengston of Terrain was jump on this. The ultimate switch to cardboard biodegradable Aardvark straws was a huge success. JJ from the The Granola Bar has vowed and promised to make the switch and is currently using up its existing inventory and has already ordered cardboard biodegradable straws. Lois Backon from The Pearl restaurant has vowed to make the switch as well. Colton from Ami’s is on board and will be trying out pasta noodle straws (since they make their own noodles!) Kevin Conte Of Parker Mansion has signed on. Joey Romeo of Joeys By The Shore, the closest waterfront eatery in Westport has joined too. Argoya has joined. Starbucks is redesigning their cups for 2020. Little Barn has joined.

    If the restaurant does not have them, be patient. They’re a hot item! From bamboo, to pasta noodle, even metal and bamboo!

    Please email me or and find out how you can help!

    • Andrew –
      Have to checked to see if we can amend the plastic bag ordinance to include plastics straws?

    • William Strittmatter

      Too bad we can’t focus on something that actually matters rather than picking on plastic straws, the elimination of which is unlikely to make a meaningful dent in the “plastic problem”.

      Reading through the NPR article linked by Melissa Crouch Chang below, and some of its linked articles, it appears straws were chosen as the avenue to attack plastic not because it was actually a large source of the plastic problem but “To us, it was the “gateway plastic” to the larger, more serious plastic pollution conversation.” So, attacking straws is, rather than being meaningful in and of itself, the “nudge” so appreciated by behavioral economists to ultimately get to a different end goal.

      Maybe it is the “nudge” that is needed and will work. However, I do worry that engaging in largely meaningless gestures can backfire by providing “feel good” options for folks allowing them to ignore the larger, real issues, like the three cases of Evian they go through in a week – much like electric vehicles or purchase of carbon credits allow the affluent to feel noble while ignoring their overall unnecessarily profligate environmental profile. Not to mention engendering cynicism among those so inclined.

      It is unfortunate that we are collectively so stupid (or polarized or pig headed or whatever) that we need to be tricked (or lied to) to achieve goals rather than engage in rational conversation and debate about what should be done. The old “ends justify the means” thing abused so much by everyone across the political spectrum. What ever happened to “but the means corrupt the end”?

      Oh well. All I can say is I have chosen to do my part and live a strawless (paper, plastic or otherwise) life. On the other hand, you will need to pry the plastic water bottle out of my cold, dead hands.

    • William Strittmatter

      As an aside, according to the NPR article, the “500 million straws a day” cited by Andrew (and environmentalists generally), is “…a number that was derived from phone calls made by a 9-year-old boy in 2011.” and “Despite its frequent repetition, there’s uncertainty over the accuracy of that figure.”

  9. Stephanie Bass forgot CLARISSA EXPLAINS IT ALL, a great show I watched and enjoyed w/ my kid

  10. Melissa Crouch Chang

    I appreciate the push toward straws on request. There are people in our community who depend on disposable straws (and for some, specifically flexible straws) for independence. For many of these people, the reason they need the straw for drinking also makes it difficult to efficiently and hygienically maintain reusables. I hope that Westport’s Commission on People With Disabilities is included in the discussion if the town is considering changing rules about access.
    This NPR article summarized it well:

  11. While I couldn’t agree more that less plastic in general is a good idea. How about putting a renewed emphasis (and enforcement) around littering? I like plastic straws, use em everyday and I always discard them in a proper receptacle along with all my trash. I’m not much for “the man” dictating how I ingest my soft drinks!

  12. Andrew Colabella

    Here is the petition I have created. It’s purpose is to provide evidence of support for this major change in our community. It’s not taking away or infringing on a right or a privledge, but simply changing the material to a more FRIENDLY type.

    Please SHARE!!!!

    • Melissa Crouch Chang

      Andrew, did you consult with any representatives from the Commission on People with Disabilities before writing this petition to “Ban the Distribution, Sale, Use of Plastic Straws…”? Or with anyone who uses straws for anything other than personal pleasure? I would be extremely upset if there was a law in town outlawing use and sale of a safe product necessary for my child’s independence. If a store doesn’t want to carry it or restaurant doesn’t want to provide it, I can make my own choice about whether or not to take my business there, but you are suggesting that the town make this item, which is relatively insignificant in the big scheme of environmental issues, difficult for us to obtain and illegal to use? This is an issue where behavior change is necessary by most of us, myself included, (my suggestion = people who don’t need to use straws should refuse them), but everyone else’s failure to make the right choice should not cause additional burden for people who need access to the straws. There are Many other things which could become folks’ pet environmental projects; or if you think this is super-important, spend time making a pledge campaign where people who can live full lives without the straws pledge to never use them again!

  13. Nancy Hunter

    Since Westporters are wealthy enough to travel the world, take a moment (actually a few hours) to collect the washed up plastics/garbage on beaches near and far.
    As for plastic straws, consider carrying your own reusable set, as Japanese chopsticks.

  14. Just ate a Terraine last night. When the server brought our friend her drink, she said, “Oh! No straw!” The server immediately responded, “It’s paper.”

  15. Wendy Batteau

    Excellent work! (Note: Only plastic straws would be banned; a variety of reusable and recyclable straws are available.)

  16. Lisa Weinstein

    Love this idea! Westport is always a step ahead…..

  17. Joe Schwartz

    Such a nice way to attract publicity and attention for one of our local unknown thespians. And doing the community/environment good too…way to go neighbor. 👌

  18. Paul Decerbo

    Take a look at this! An aluminum reusable straw!