Valparaiso-based online retailer Mermaid Straws is trying to save the planet by selling reusable glass and steel straws that keep plastic from clogging up landfills or choking sea turtles.
The mission-driven company that's been waging a campaign against single-use plastic straws hopes to energize its customers into taking action by staging a worldwide cleanup June 30 that will include a local cleanup of Porter Beach on Lake Michigan at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
All the company's employees and at least a few hundred others are expected to remove litter and refuse from the beach from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. that Sunday. Mermaid Straws is looking for additional volunteers and will provide gloves, buckets and any supplies they may need, as well as a free Mermaid Straw.
Fluid Coffeebar will provide free coffee and Designer Desserts free cupcakes.
Adam Harrington, who owns the business along with his wife Lisa Harrington, said they hoped to kick off "plastic-free July," a month in which people are encouraged to eschew plastic.
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"We do monthly local beach cleans, but we've had customers in California and Australia ask about beach cleans," he said. "There was a lot of interest in customers in other parts of the country. We don't have the resources to do that, but thought it could be an inspiration for people worldwide. As Lisa said, it's pretty easy to go out and pick up rubbish."
So far, volunteers have signed up in 15 states and three countries for the June 30 cleanup. Mermaid Straw is encouraging people to pick up trash in beaches, parks or just their neighborhood and post on social media about it with the hashtags #mermaidstrawcleanup, #plasticfreejuly and #cleanoutworld.
Mermaid Straw is giving participants pointers on what to do if people encounter any hazardous substances and potentially discount codes on its products, which also include drinkware and apparel.
"The whole goal of our company is to offer reusable items so people can personally have an impact on the environment and help reduce pollution," he said. "This is an extension of that where we're cleaning up what's already out there. We have helped eliminate 35 million single-use plastic straws and that's had a huge impact. Doing a cleanup wherever you live also helps lessen the burden of single-use plastic on the environment, so it's not being ingested by birds or wildlife."
For more information, visit mermaidstraw.com.