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Bay St. Louis residents are going plastic free in April

JEFF CLARK/SUN HERALD 
 Kerr Grabowski and Carole McKellar discuss their Plastic Free April movement at the Sunrise Cafe, one of several Bay St. Louis eateries that is participating in the Straw on Request campaign.
JEFF CLARK/SUN HERALD Kerr Grabowski and Carole McKellar discuss their Plastic Free April movement at the Sunrise Cafe, one of several Bay St. Louis eateries that is participating in the Straw on Request campaign.
Senior volunteers needed

BAY ST. LOUIS -- Two Bay St. Louis residents are hoping to reduce their environmental footprint by reducing their dependency on some plastic items. And they are hoping their community will follow their lead.

Plastic Free April is a movement started by Kerr Grabowski and Carole McKellar. It is an effort to reduce the amount of plastic one uses by eliminating single use plastics such as water bottles, straws and shopping bags from the home.

Based on an Australian project

The campaign was modeled after Plastic Free July, which started in the Australian city of Perth.

"I was teaching a fabrics class to an Australian student who sent me a link about the Perth project," Grabowski said. "So, I decided to take the challenge a few months ago and after doing some research, I took it seriously."

Grabowski said she mentioned it to McKellar and a couple of other people at a party and the nucleus of the group was formed. She said she hopes that the group will continue to grow, especially among the seniors in the area.

Senior volunteers needed

"Statistically, many seniors are using a lot less plastics because they haven't always had the options," she said. "But we do find that seniors have more time and we're hoping the senior community will get behind this project and help us spread our message."

McKellar said she hopes the program will go beyond April and it will become a way of life for residents in Bay St. Louis and beyond.

"Eventually, we want to get the name away from a time line like April," McKellar said. "We're going to do as much as we can in April and grow it from there."

Asking for straws

The main focus of the April campaign, McKellar said, is reducing the usage of plastic straws.

According to choosetobestrawfree.com, plastic drinking straws, the kind commonly found at most restaurants, are petroleum-based products. The website claims that 500,000,000 straws are used each day worldwide.

"We are doing Straw on Request, where we are asking restaurants not automatically give people straws when they come to the table but have them ask for a straw if they want one," McKellar said. "The support from the community and some of the restaurants has been overwhelming.

Grabowski said her research on the adverse effects of plastic was an eye-opener.

"I think we all knew that plastics had a big impact on the environment. But until we started doing research and watching documentaries, we had no idea how bad it was," Grabowski said.

Other ways to help

Aside from straws, they suggest finding an alternative to bottled water and using reusable shopping bags instead of the plastic bags given at most major retailers.

"I've been using the same shopping bag for a long time, and we are trying to get others to do this because every little bit helps," Grabowski said. "The plastic bottles used for bottled water are filling up landfills and our oceans."

Although going completely plastic free is almost impossible, Grabowski said Plastic Free April is a start.

"There is now way to completely cut plastics out of your life," she said. It's impossible. But if we can cut down on straws, bags and water bottles, it eliminates a huge amount of plastic."

The Plastic Free April group will be showing the documentary "Bag It" Thursday, April 21 at 6 p.m. at the Hancock County Library in Bay St. Louis.

For more information on the project or to volunteer, send an email to plasticfreeapril@gmail.com

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