Week 7: 8 Weeks to a Greener Life & a Bluer Sea - Using Social Media for Positive Change
All Insta photos in this post are pre-approved screenshots of Late Shake's Instagram feed. Thanks to the team there for letting me write about positive, stimulating conversations! I love what you guys do, and can't wait to see what the future brings for your business.
I've been dilly-dallying a bit with getting this post up, and offer my apologies...I always try to wait for an eco-concern to bring itself to my attention during the week before deciding that's what I want to write about. It feels a bit more organic to reflect on something that's currently affecting me. This week was just a bit slow in revealing its challenges (how nice!). However, I found a good opportunity for growth and expansion while scrolling through my Instagram feed at tooth-brushing time one evening.
A Positive Opportunity for Education & Activism with Instagram
How many "pretty" pictures of food or drinks or cute cafes pop up on your social media feeds throughout the day? It might just be my love of experimental cooking, foodie-based travel, colorful ingredients, and beautifully-designed dining spaces, but my feed is brimming with snaps of smoothie bowls and tofu dishes and perfectly crafted coffees with hearts and bears in the latte art. I love seeking inspiration from photos of food, and I imagine there's a part of my brain that relishes looking at them as well. Like some sort of dopamine hit.
Although most of the food-based accounts I follow depict eco-friendly practices, I'm finding that there's still a lot of accounts that are including plastic straws and other single-use plastics in their glamorous marketing shots. Now, I'm not trying to call anyone out and shame them. Nor am I encouraging you to bash anyone or any operation on social media. That's bad form. I'm only saying that I found a perfect opportunity to open up a discussion on single-use plastics when I came across a photo from a hip little pop-up business in Portland specializing in gourmet dessert milkshakes...
The shakes are beautifully crafted and very well-photographed; most of those young, modern foodie-type places are crushing it on the social media scene. The Late Shake Instagram feed (@lateshake) showcases their unique flavors, ranging from Whisky & Maple Chocolate Old-Fashioned to Cardamom Matcha to Cinnamon Toast (Totes) Crunch, and integrates a few shots of happy customers. They often have non-dairy options for the plant-based among us, which is exciting. They even have fundraising nights where they donate a portion (or even 100%) of their profits to various charities, like Raices, a nonprofit working to reunite separated immigrant families. It's a cool business!
But I had to wince a little when I saw the perky little plastic straw poking out of the creamy goop in the convenient little plastic cup that lit up my feed.
So I let myself wince. I almost kept scrolling. But then I stopped. My last challenge was to #justpickitup and to stop ignoring litter on the ground. Week 2 was all about speaking up about single-use plastics at a local restaurant. How was this situation any different? It was an Instagram account that I admired, a small-scale business that supports the local Portland economy and a number of meaningful charities, with one little flaw. And I wanted to reach out to them and show them that I cared about their use of that plastic straw in their marketing material as much as I appreciated their cool little business model. So, instead of scrolling, I politely commented with my concern:
And I was delighted when they responded! The beauty of social media now is that small businesses can really expand their network and reach more people...but now the people can reach the businesses a lot easier as well. Most of the time, the account holders take your comments seriously and want to ensure a quality customer experience, so they'll comment back. Think of the influence you can have with just one little comment!
Now, the response, as you can see, brought up some other issues that are very challenging for small businesses. A.k.a. economically viable options to replacing plastic straws. I had some suggestions, but there isn't a perfect answer. It involves a change to the business model. I gave suggestions...ask customers to BYO straw, or at least provide straws on request only. They could even have a little signage showing harmful effects of plastic straws on the environment to deter folks from choosing that convenience, while still allowing its use for those with disabilities and a need to use the plastic straws. This strategy could make their green, earth-loving customers love them even more! I mean, really, Portland is full of eco-fiends. Take a look at The Last Straw Campaign by Pacific Whale Foundation below for some more inspiration in this realm.
The Ripple Effect
Like I said in my Week 2 post - you have a chance to start #therippleeffect here. You know, the chain reaction. Igniting the train of thought that steers someone down that eco-path I wish we were all marching on. Maybe the manager/business owner/whoever is in charge of the product sourcing hasn’t even thought about an eco-friendly option, or they’ve heard yakking from a few other people and your one comment was the tipping point for them to stop using plastic straws.
So next time you catch yourself scrolling (don't do this too much, get outside and breathe the wild air!), take note of the photos that pop up in your feed. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, whatever your poison. You know, look for the shots of to-go coffee cups being clutched by smiling girls walking their dogs on the beach. Or the plastic straw perched in the piña colada from the deck of that trendy travel blogger. Or the vegan cafe that still uses plastic spoons in their açaí bowls (sad). And then, comment your view politely. Use my example as a script. Just start the conversation. Be nice, but show your soul.
Keep Beating the Plastic Plague
Speak up about it! Spark a discussion! Let's keep powering up that big tsunami of compassion for the ocean and gain more momentum here! Social media gives us a perfect platform to reach more people for positive change. That's what I'm trying to focus on with @thegreenestblue. We've got this. Social media for good.
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