4th Grader Teaches Restaurants How To ‘Be Straw Free’

Most people might assume that elementary school kids are oblivious to issues of waste or over-consumption, but not Milo Cress of Burlington, Vermont.

When the 9-year-old learned that 500 million plastic straws were distributed for use each day (that’s enough to fill over 46,400 40 foot-long school buses each year!), he decided that this issue was too big to ignore.

“Kids don’t have as much say as to whether their parents use plastic bags or not and they can’t ask for a different kind of cup if the restaurant only provides styrofoam — but, anyone who can order a drink can order one without a straw,” said Cress.

“So [straws] seemed like a good place to start, especially since I wanted to get kids involved in a real way. Also, since we each use about 40,000 straws in a lifetime, the sooner we get started the better.”

Since launching the Be Straw Free project, Cress has met with the Governor of Vermont to explain the initiative, testified before the Vermont House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, and recieved recognition from the National Restaurant Association.

Cress says that the best way for people to become involved in the Be Straw Free project is to look for opportunities to make local restaurants aware of plastic straw waste.

“First I sit down, order my drink and watch how things are done,” said Cress. “then, if straws are put into drinks automatically, at the end of our meal I ask the manager or owner if they would consider bringing drinks to the table first, then asking people if they want a straw rather than automatically putting them in the drinks.”

“I tell them that it helps the environment and saves the restaurant money at the same time. If they are already offering customers straws instead of putting them in every drink, I thank them for setting a good example and ask if they can help us spread the word by signing up on my website (it’s free to sign up). I’m not nervous because I try to stay very positive,” he added.

Because sometimes straws are necessary for health or sanitary reasons, Cress advocates the use of reusable stainless steel, glass, bamboo and even paper straws instead of disposable plastic ones.

Recently, Cress wrote the Mayor of Burlington and asked if they could work together to make Burlington the first “StrawFree City in America” and Mayor Kiss agreed. They’ll soon be meeting with city planners to discuss next steps.

If you’d like more information about how to help your favorite restaurants go StrawFree, check out the “Each One Reach One” page of the BeStrawFree website for facts, figures and talking points.

If you’d like to donate to or sponsor Milo’s campaign, find more information here.

Related Reading:

Living Without Plastic, And Teaching Others How To Do It

Is The Plastic Industry The New Tobacco Industry?

Dangers Of Plastic Addiction Revealed In New Documentary

Image Credit: Flickr - Horia Varlan

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Carole R.
Carole R.3 months ago

Great idea. I'll think twice before using straws from now on.

Ashlyine B.
Ashlyine B.2 years ago

Thanks friends, for providing such enlightening data.
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Meg Graham
Meg G.3 years ago

Well done Milo!!!!! I just learnt something new and I am astounded that the 500 mill is only in the U.S Good grief how many would that be world wide. I don't usually use straws but there are occassions when it is just put in my drink. I am now going to be even more conscious of this issue.

Sarah M.
Sarah M.4 years ago


Lynn Allen
Lynn Allen4 years ago

They do listen to what we say in class! How exciting!

Wioletta Spisz
Wioletta S.4 years ago


Valerie G.
Val G.4 years ago

Thanks Beth for posting this inspiring story...

Valerie G.
Val G.4 years ago

That's great.
I'll be more careful to go straw free myself...

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.4 years ago

neat kid

John S.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thanks, hate straws anyway.