A couple of years ago, Mojos on the Harbor owners John and Andrea Pitera were approached about joining a campaign called Skip the Straw, an initiative whose mission is self explanatory. Concerned environmentalists, they were happy to jump aboard.
“We put up the Skip the Straw logo and encouraged people to forgo straws in our restaurant,” she said. “Unfortunately, it made zero difference.”
Undaunted, the Piteras decided to take a different route. In March of this year, the restaurant completely eliminated plastic straws at Mojos, offering stainless steel ones for purchase instead. The stainless steel straws sell for 50 cents each, which basically covers the cost of the item and shipping.
“I had no idea how it would go, so I ordered 1,500 as a test,” said Andrea. “Those sold out in two months.”
By August 1, Mojo’s had sold close to 6,000 stainless steel straws in the restaurant, replacing a much larger number of plastic straws in the process since many patrons bring their straws with them each time they dine. By contrast, Andrea reported the restaurant used 75,000 straws in the year before the ban.
“We’ve had some locals laugh about the number of stainless steel straws they are accumulating at home when they forget to bring them,” said Andrea. She estimated 99.98% of their customers are fine with the ban, and about 30% of those are “wildly enthusiastic.”
The Piteras have placed tent cards on the tables explaining the policy, which Andrea said sparks conversation with almost everyone. “It gets people thinking about plastics and talking about the alarming statistics,” she said. “Every bit of plastic ever made is still on the planet, and we are drowning in it. It’s truly frightening.”
The Piteras considered replacing the plastic straws with paper ones, but Andrea said those don’t hold up, especially with frozen drinks. She also said those that are marketed as biodegradable don’t really degrade, except under a very narrow set of conditions, adding that they are also outrageously expensive.
The word seems to be spreading beyond Bald Head Island. Andrea said two Wilmington restaurants heard about the Mojo’s plastic ban and contacted them about where to buy the stainless steel straws.
Andrea said the plastic straw ban fits very well with Bald Head Island’s overall philosophy of protection and preservation of the natural environment. She is part of an environmental task force on the island whose mission is to look for and implement ways to maintain the ecology of Bald Head Island.
“We know we aren’t saving the world,” said Andrea, “but it’s our small step in getting people to at least think about the use of plastic. Helping educate others can lead to larger change.”
Mojo’s Tent Card Conversation Starter
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