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Heal the Bay Blog

Author: Talia Walsh

As Strawless Summer comes to a close, Heal the Bay would like to thank all of our partners and community advocates for making this campaign possible.

In America, food and drinks are routinely served with a side of plastic.

One coffee comes with a cup, sleeve, lid, stirrer, straw, sugar packet and cream. A breakfast burrito includes a wrap, container, salsa, utensils and bag. But just because it’s always on the menu, doesn’t mean we have to order it.

If you’ve been to one of our beach cleanups in greater Los Angeles, you don’t need crazy stats to shock you – like an estimated 500 million plastic straws being used in the U.S. every day1. You’ve seen our pollution challenges first-hand. In fact, around 40% of the trash found in the environment is beverage-related2, and single-use plastic straws are one of our most commonly found items at cleanups.

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“No straw, thank you”.

This simple statement, echoed by patrons in restaurants, bars, coffee shops and to-go eateries, is the murmur of a movement aimed at combating the single-use plastic convenience craze.

Earlier this year, Heal the Bay joined the straws-upon-request movement and launched the Strawless Summer campaign to raise awareness and reduce unneccessary plastic straw usage in Los Angeles County.

Here are a few highlights:

“Straws Upon Request”

We’ve come to expect plastic straws available at dispensers, tossed on our tables and placed in our drinks without asking for them first. What would happen if we turned the tables? This is what we aimed to address in our “Straws Upon Request” Study.

During Strawless Summer, we partnered with three local Santa Monica establishments (Pono Burger, The Misfit, Ingo’s Tasty Diner) to pilot a 4-week program aimed at reducing plastic straw distribution. Patrons wouldn’t be given straws by waitstaff unless they asked for them, in the same way customers must ask for glasses of water during the drought.

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Did people totally freak out? No. Was it easy to implement? Yes. Did it earn the businesses major goodwill with some locals? Yep, it most certainly did.

If patrons asked for straws (one restaurant said this happened about half the time), the waitstaff explained their absence from the experience was part of a local effort to be more green. Then, the restaurant offered paper or plastic straws. If folks needed a plastic straw, they could have access to one. But for folks who didn’t need or want them, the single-use plastic straw was absent from the table.

“We chose to participate in a Strawless Summer because it is great for the environment and the Bay. We are a locals restaurant and have a huge locals following a lot of whom spend a good amount of time in the Bay [and] ocean,” said one restaurant manager who participated in the study.

See more local establishments who pledged to go straws upon request during Strawless Summer.

MonSTRAWsity Hits Home

Here’s a frightening truth: the average American family uses 1,752 straws in a year3. To visualize this fact, we collected plastic straws at our coastline cleanups and pieced together the MonSTRAWsity, whose suit is made out of… 1,752 straws. The MonSTRAWsity spent the summer wreaking havoc on the Santa Monica Pier near the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, in the South Bay and all over Los Angeles. By the end of Summer, the MonSTRAWsity was even surfing the airwaves.

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The Sipping Point

It’s estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by weight. Another study shows microscopic plastic fibers are being detected in 83% of drinking water worldwide and a whopping 94% of U.S. tap water4. Microplastics are even showing up in table salt, according to new research.

Heal the Bay’s Nothin’ But Sand, Adopt-a-Beach and Suits on the Sand cleanup volunteers together have collected close to 13,000 plastic straws and stirrers5 from L.A. County beaches in 2017 alone.

Local inaction is our own worst enemy; however, on the flip side, local action is our best opportunity. Heal the Bay will continue to work with businesses, environmental partners and local municipalities to curb the proliferation of single-use plastic pollution, including advancing safe alternatives to single-use plastic straws and only providing straws upon request.

L.A. doesn’t have to suck. Let’s rethink the drink and stop the alarming plastic pollution trends from continuing to increase.

Learn more about the benefits of skipping the straw at LASucks.org

Looking for something fun to share? Download this amazing poster below created by illustrator Daniela Garreton – please make sure to give her credit for this masterpiece. (Download).

Our Strawless Summer 2017 campaign would not be possible without these local water warriors: Thank you to Mick and the team at ZehnerGroup, Susan Lang (creator of the MonSTRAWsity and Heal the Bay volunteer extraordinaire), Andrea Maguire and the STRAWS documentary team, SoHo House Malibu, All At Once, Jack Johnson and the Ohana Foundation, Lonely Whale Foundation, 5 Gyres Institute, Klean Kanteen, Simone Boyce and KTLA 5, and all the awesome local businesses who pledged to go Strawless or “Straws Upon Request”, we salute you!

Special shout outs to these local businesses for their participation in Strawless Summer:

Pono Burger, The Misfit, Ingo’s Tasty Diner, Bareburger Organic, Laurel Tavern, Hermosa Beach Fish Shop, Beckers Bakery & Deli, Brother’s BurritosTallulas and Watermans Safehouse

Sources:
1. “The Be Straw Free Campaign”. National Park Service Commercial Services. (Last update 11/26/2013) https://www.nps.gov/commercialservices/greenline_straw_free.htm
2. Plastics BAN List. Publication. 5 Gyres, Clean Production Action, Surfrider Foundation, USTREAM. 2016. http://d3583ivmhhw2le.cloudfront.net/images/uploads/publications/PlasticsBANList2016.pdf
3. “The Be Straw Free Campaign”. National Park Service Commercial Services. (Last update 11/26/2013) https://www.nps.gov/commercialservices/greenline_straw_free.htm
4. “New Research Shows Plastic Fibers in Drinking Water”. Plastic Pollution Coalition. (published 9/6/2017) http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/pft/2017/9/6/microfibers-the-plastic-inside-us
5. Heal the Bay’s Marine Debris Database. (data pulled from 1/1/2017-9/21/2017) http://sites.healthebay.org/MarineDebris/MDDB/



Summer is coming to an end, but our #StrawlessSummer Campaign is a pledge you can keep all year round.

We are thrilled to be joined by local businesses like Pono Burger, The Misfit, Ingo’s Tasty Diner, Bareburger Organic, Laurel Tavern, Hermosa Beach Fish Shop, Beckers Bakery & Deli, Brother’s BurritosTallulas and Watermans Safehouse for our “Straws-Upon-Request” campaign. These businesses are leading the way to change consumer behavior across our region.

It’s estimated that Americans use roughly 500 million plastic straws daily – that’s enough to fill up 125 school buses and to wrap around the planet 2.5 times. Because they aren’t readily recyclable, most plastic straws end up in landfills, and the rest wind up polluting the environment. Plastic pollution is a major problem, in fact it’s estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea by mass than fish. Skipping the straw is an easy way to make a big difference.

L.A. sucks at times, but we don’t have to! We just launched our new campaign microsite (thanks ZEHNERGROUP). You can take the pledge to go strawless, catch up on the latest straw-related news, share with your friends and find out which local restaurants and bars are going straws-upon-request. If you don’t need a plastic straw, don’t use one! Learn more at lasucks.org.



The Strawless Summer - Heal the Bay

L.A. doesn’t have to suck.

The relentless traffic, all the annoying wannabes, and the really, really long lines for literally everything. (Seriously, I just wanted a cold brew & cronut!) Okay, fine. These things do suck! But, they don’t define us.

Diverse communities, vibrant businesses and a beautiful environment – this is what makes greater L.A. so desirable to call home. From the San Gabriel mountains to the Bay, we are a cultural and economic hub built on creativity, innovation and resilience. But escape from the hustle-and-bustle of undercover celebrities, hashtag fads and trendy avocado toast is only a short trip away. Whether it be to hike on nature trails, shred down mountains, swim in the sea or explore the desert, we are blessed with natural and urban settings that are uniquely intertwined.

Yet, our everyday lifestyle choices are having a negative impact that we can no longer ignore.


(Photo by: Henrique Vicente, Flickr. January 2017.)

Plastic pollution is everywhere.

The consequences and costs of convenience related to single-use plastic packaging for food and beverages are surfacing in our ocean, rivers, creeks and streams. It’s now estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean by mass than fish1.

Plastic drink-related litter is one of the top items we find at our volunteer cleanups in beach and watershed areas across greater Los Angeles. Single-use lids, cups, bottles, sleeves, stirrers, six-pack rings, and straws. You name it, we find it. Our region isn’t the only one that needs to consider rethinking the drink. Some 40% of all debris found in the environment is beverage-related2.

And all this trash isn’t just gross. It’s dangerous. Marine mammals, fish and birds often get entangled in plastic or mistake pieces of it for food. After accumulating our trash in their gullet, the animals can’t digest food properly and often die.

Strawless Summer - Heal the Bay

Just keep sippin’.

Greater L.A. can lead the way and help shift America away from single-use plastic items. We took a giant step when Heal the Bay helped pass the statewide plastic bag ban in 2014 and California voters upheld the policy last year.

But this summer, we’re zeroing in on plastic straws because they kind of suck.

Plastic straws of all shapes, sizes and colors are popping up everywhere from juice boxes to cocktails to unasked-for glasses of water. Collectively, it’s estimated that Americans use roughly 500 million plastic straws daily – enough to fill up 125 school buses each day3 and wrap around our entire planet 2.5 times. Most plastic straws end up in landfills. The rest wind up polluting the environment and posing a threat to animals and aquatic life.

So, here’s what we are asking you to do. It’s simple and it works: If you don’t need a plastic straw, don’t use one!

The Strawless Summer

It is starting to heat up this summer, so now is the perfect time to cool off and skip the single-use plastic straw. We just launched our new destination, lasucks.org, where you can take the pledge to go strawless and share with your friends.


1. The New Plastics Economy Rethinking the future of plastics. January 2016. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_New_Plastics_Economy.pdf
2. Plastics BAN List. Publication. 5 Gyres, Clean Production Action, Surfrider Foundation, USTREAM. 2016. http://d3583ivmhhw2le.cloudfront.net/images/uploads/publications/PlasticsBANList2016.pdf
3. “The Be Straw Free Campaign”. National Park Service Commercial Services. (Last update 11/26/2013) https://www.nps.gov/commercialservices/greenline_straw_free.htm



Imagine what the rush of a wave looks like from underneath. The powerful pressure culminating, viciously spinning around you, and vanishing before the very eye.

Chris DeLorenzo, LA and NY based photographer, captures the essence of a breaking wave in his current exhibit “Breath of Disruption” at Gallery 169 in Santa Monica. His collection of moving, abstract photographs were taken just off the coast of Southern California.

“Many artists approach Gallery 169 to show their work, and many photographers have brought beach and water scenes,” says Frank Langen, Owner of Gallery 169. “It is difficult to find something new … a fresh perspective. When I met with Chris I was immediately intrigued by his statement coming from a sincere, unique connection to the ocean. From this sacred relationship he fosters with the ocean, its currents and waves, his eye provides a sensational, humbling, and original vision.”


“Genesis” by Chris DeLorenzo

Ocean photography serves many purposes, from scientific documentation to education to cultural symbolism. Photos and videos deepen our understanding of the complexities of marine life, and also help us reflect on our connection with water.

“I have spent my entire life in, on, and under our beloved Pacific. Living and working along the edge of the continent has been my good fortune,” says Brian Murphy, an architect and surfer who helped discover Chris DeLorenzo. “There is something unique in this young man’s connection to the ‘wet side.’ His work manages to capture something that few artists convey in their work. Special, magical, uplifting … are but a few words that come to mind.”

We recently sat down with Chris for an interview and chatted about how he got started with ocean photography, his favorite ocean in the world, and his go-to green traveling tips.

How did you get started with ocean photography?

Chris DeLorenzo: It’s kind of funny because I’m not a surfer or diver, but the ocean always had a huge place in my life. I didn’t even grow up near the ocean. It’s so crazy though, because I swear­ my first memory is from the beach in Florida. I must have been three years old … for some reason the ocean has always stayed with me.

I went to college for a semester and then dropped out and started working. Photography is not easily taught, and I’m not the best person to be told what to shoot in an academic setting. School is great, but it just wasn’t my path at the time. I did take some awesome classes, like entrepreneurship at Santa Monica College.

I spent a year and a half in Cali before I started landing professional work. Los Angeles is a photographer’s dream location; it has the city, sea, snow, and desert all so close by. I was able to build my professional portfolio in California in under two years. It’s a great place to launch a career.

As I was getting started, a few mentors helped me gain a strong base. I interned with Steven Lippman, renowned commercial photographer and former competitive surfer, for a year and put to use all this knowledge about how to work with clients and promote myself.

At first I thought I wanted to be a surf photographer. I do surf, but wouldn’t necessarily call myself a surfer — it’s the community I love. When I was swimming in L.A. one time about two years ago, I saw this incredibly clear water. I was maybe 50-100 feet out, very close to the shoreline. From then on I started to look for clear water. It was trial and error. And I really started to think about this: why is the water clearer on some days and in some locations than others?


“Venus” by Chris DeLorenzo

I began to discover that water’s clarity has to do with quite a few factors, including pollution and ocean sediment. Location matters too, like whether there are cliffs nearby. Most of the time the farther out you go, the clearer the water is. But after a certain point the waves stop breaking, so you have to stay relatively close.

From then on, whenever we go surf I always ask whether the water was clear. People will laugh. Whatever … these narrow windows of clear water … I am drawn to them.

For the “Breath of Disruption” series, I photographed some 50,000 images of waves in Southern California over the course of 40 days. 9/10 days the water isn’t clear enough to shoot in.

What does “Breath of Disruption” mean?

Chris: It’s me in the space with the ocean on the edge of violent storm clouds. It’s a quick breath, the ocean lets you see it, and then it’s gone.

It’s my favorite thing in the world, being under the water and looking at waves going over my head. No one sees what I see. I feel like other people need to witness this amazing world … the air, water, sand, and the ocean floor … it’s a serene space that we think we know; a sacred paradise juxtaposed with sudden, fierce forces.


“Aquatic Cumulus” by Chris DeLorenzo

Everyone says, “Let’s go to the ocean and relax on the beach.” But this series is not that tranquil, peaceful vibe. It’s moody, intense, and electric. Beneath the surface, the waves look like arteries and veins with severe momentum. There are deep tints as the water swells, big vast concepts of time, space, light, and energy.

It’s surreal and humbling to use the reality of waves to create thoughtful, self-interpretive abstractions.

Photography is so relatable because it’s actually real life and energy; by its very nature it’s not abstract. But there is a fine balance when you’re creating impactful work in an oversaturated market. I want to do something different in my personal work, and connect with a deeper purpose.

It’s very easy to take a photograph that means nothing. It’s very powerful when you get it right, especially as the internet, computers, and cell phones make it possible for tens of thousands of people to see your work.

Do you have any professional advice about how to safely take photographs in the ocean?

Chris: Don’t get hit by the waves. And … you only have one shot. [Chuckles]

Physicality is key. You have to be pretty agile, and quickly get your body in the right position to take the shot at the right angle; it’s a very physical approach to photography. The tricky part is staying under. I can only hold my breath for about a minute, but when swimming intensely underwater, I last even less time.

My ocean photography gear includes a wet suit, fins, mask, and an underwater case for the camera. The camera is strapped to me, but it floats as well. Saltwater destroys equipment, so you have to clean and soak it all after every swim.

Where is your favorite ocean in world?

Chris: Indian Ocean, Maldives – it’s the ocean as it should be. Perfect water, 85 degrees. You can find your own spot. Door to door from L.A. to Maldives is 30 hours … it’s totally worth it.

What are your go-to tips for staying green while traveling?

Chris: I carry a big 64 ounce reusable water bottle around, which I think is made for beer, but works just fine for water.

I’m obviously against pollution in water. If I am out by the ocean and I see trash I’ll throw it away right there on the spot. We really have to be aware of our actions.

I think people just have to understand that everything comes full circle. What you do has an impact. There’s the whole “I’m just one person” thing, but if everyone doesn’t think like that, we are going in the right direction. For instance, in New York, they used to plow the streets and dump the snow in the water, but they stopped it, which is great. But there are so many other actions happening that have to stop to make our oceans cleaner. Fortunately, people are more aware than ever before.


“Layers of Life” by Chris DeLorenzo


Come to our Featured Earth Month Event:
“Breath of Disruption” Exhibit by Chris DeLorenzo at Gallery 169
Gallery 169, the “hub + cultural generator” of Santa Monica Canyon, is hosting an exhibit “Breath of Disruption” by LA/NY based photographer Chris DeLorenzo. The collection features beautiful, abstract photos taken under waves along the Southern California coast. Gallery entry is free. Best of all, 10% of proceeds from artwork sales in April support Heal the Bay.
When: April 8, 5-8pm (Artist meet and greet with Chris DeLorenzo from 5-5:30pm)
Where: 169 W Channel Rd, Santa Monica, CA 90402
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Chris DeLorenzo is a 22-year old photographer based in Los Angeles and New York. When he’s not capturing waves underwater he works with top agencies and brands on advertising and editorial content. See his “Breath of Disruption” collection prints and follow him on Instagram.

 

Gallery 169 is the “hub+cultural generator” of Santa Monica Canyon exhibiting established and emerging artists drawing from a rich reservoir of residents. Gallery 169 is located at 169 W Channel Road in Santa Monica, CA 90402. View current exhibits at their site and see more art at Instagram.