#ashevilleslaststraw to encourage city to #stopsucking

Bouchon Directeur generale Shannon McNally was scrolling through her Instagram feed recently when a promoted site caught her attention. She was astounded to see prominent scientist Neal deGrasse Tyson, shown sipping a drink through a straw, suddenly get slapped in the face by what looked to be the tentacled arm of an octopus. 

Of course, she watched the entire video, which featured more sipping celebs getting octo-whacked to promote a social media challenge to quit the plastic straw habit. The challenge was identified by the hashtag #stopsucking.  At the end of the video, McNally was directed to www.strawlessocean.org, the website of “For a Strawless Ocean,” part of a global movement to reduce single-use and other plastics. The website is a product of Lonely Whale (https://www.lonelywhale.org/) which describes itself as “an incubator for courageous ideas that drive impactful market-based change on behalf of our ocean.”

“I was astonished by the info I got from strawlessocean.org,” McNally said. “In the United States alone, we use more than 500 million plastic straws every single day! That blew me away. That’s a crazy amount! I personally stopped with plastic straws that very day!”

Strawless Ocean’s challenge to #stopsucking seemed, to McNally, to be not only admirable, necessary and doable, it also appeared to be more of a West Coast kind of thing. Inspired by the movement (“We have to do better,” she says), she made up her mind to bring strawless awareness to the eastern part of the country.

“Where better than Asheville? We are an East, if not exactly Coast, food city with a high profile, like Seattle in the west. I mention Seattle because according to the Strawless Ocean website, Seattle’s months-long campaign to eliminate plastic straws has been such a success that they will be completely free of plastic straws this summer. If a city that size can go strawless, why can’t Asheville? It starts somewhere, and right now, it’s starting with Bouchon.”

Working with Bouchon Directeur dachat, Bill Cooke, the two came up with a plan to eliminate the use of plastic straws at the restaurant and the upstairs bar, L’Ecluse.

“First, we looked for eco-friendly substitute straws. The two kinds of straws that we use are the thin, black, short cocktail straws and that clear soda straw you see everywhere. We were able to find a paper straw for the bar, and a compostable plant-based straw for the soda straws. So we quickly phased out the plastic ones.”

When asked about cost, McNally said, “Yes, the new straws cost more. Most of the increased cost we look at as an investment in our future. When there’s that much plastic in the ocean, some of it is going into the fish we eat. We love seafood at Bouchon and want to keep it on the menu!”

McNally went on to say, “We have changed the culture at the restaurant a tiny bit by eliminating the automatic inclusion of cocktail straws in bar drinks. With few exceptions, one of those little black straws went into every drink served at Bouchon. The new paper straws are available only on request. By making this small change, straw consumption in general should scale down, helping with costs.”

At L’Ecluse, the same policy will apply—compostable/paper straws on request only.

Big boss (Bouchon’s owner) Michel Baudouin said about McNally’s eco-activity, “I’m all for it. It’s so great that McNally has taken initiative in this area. Thanks to her, all of our packaging, and by that I mean containers for take out, bags and cups and even the to-go cutlery, are all compostable.”

McNally recalled, “I grew up with a dad who was adamant about recycling. If my siblings and I didn’t crush the milk carton before tossing it in the bin or failed in any way to comply with the recycling procedures, we got called into the garage and he would let us have it! But he also explained to us why it was so important, and his words have stayed with me. For one thing, it’s just so much easier to recycle and use eco-friendly products nowadays, I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t.”

McNally’s adventures in strawlessness motivated her to expand consciousness of the issue in her adopted hometown.

“I was brainstorming with Abby (Wallace, Bouchon’s bar manager) to see if we could come up with an ‘Asheville only’ hashtag, sort of a local version of #stopsucking,” said McNally “We were trying to keep in the same frame that Seattle did with their hashtag, which is #strawlessinseattle— they played off a movie theme. We started talking about ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ which was filmed here.”
“Well— we tried! ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ really didn’t resonate with the use of plastic straws,” she laughed. “It took us a while, but we hit on #ashevilleslaststraw.”

“I hope that our great customers, social media followers and other friends will challenge their friends and family to go strawless,” McNally said. “And of course, we want to encourage them to use #ashevilleslaststraw when posting about it. I’ll be posting challenges along with more info and photos on Instagram (@avlbouchon) and Facebook (Bouchon Asheville) and we would love to re-post others’ challenges.”

“I’m sure that there are more restaurants in Asheville who are interested in getting rid of plastic straws or have made the switch to the alternatives—I bet they’ll help get the word out. It’s a small thing that we can all do. #ashevilleslaststraw.”