Our objective was to reduce the number of straws used in the country this year, with the hope of earning a permanent & sustainable way of retaining that reduction.
We use over 500 million plastic straws every single day—most end up in the ocean, polluting the water and killing marine life. At this rate, by 2050, plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish. These compelling facts were on display throughout the Sucker Punch experience reminding participants why the ocean is angry . . . and why an octopus tentacle was smacking them in the face and sending their plastic straw flying. No two slaps were the same so each participant received a totally unique slow-mo video to share on social, along with their pledge to #StopSucking.
In one summer, our #StopSucking campaign turned the plastic straw into environment enemy number one. With $0 spend, our total media impressions topped 831 million. #StopSucking launched with Sucker Punch, a live SXSW experience that transformed participants into ocean health activists with a single smack . . . from an octopus.
The ocean plastics problem feels overwhelming because we don't know where to start with such a huge challenge. And the "start" is often posed by most environmental campaigns as fully adopting a lifestyle that's impossibly inconvenient: Switch to a Prius. Compost everything. Remember to bring a commuter mug everywhere you go.
We knew we had to identify a start that was prioritized by ease not volume impact.
While microplastics only represent 13% of plastics in the oceans (by weight), the single-use plastic straw is one of the most frequently encountered and used plastic, giving us a clear path to a way for people to make a daily impact on the ocean plastics problem.
In the U.S. alone, we use 500 million straws a day. They are typically made of petroleum-based plastic polypropylene which is not commercially recyclable. We rarely reuse straws. Many end up in the ocean, harming marine and aquatic life.
And the reality is, most of us don't even need them; restaurants and bars often place them in our drinks without us asking for them. We didn't need people to become environmentalists, we simply needed people to stop using plastic straws.
Our strategic big idea: Empower people to improve our ocean's health by going without something we encounter every day: the plastic straw.
With $0 media budget, our social reach topped 74 million. (The equivalent of a $515k media spend.) And the resulting summer-long movement gained more than 831 million media impressions. From celebrities to passersby, everyone became ocean health activists — pushing their friends, restaurants, and cities to #StopSucking and ban plastic straws for good.
In just three months, #StopSucking gained notoriety from media ranging from The New York Times to Huffington Post to Fast Company — and influenced true policy change. The city of Seattle became the first major market to pass a permanent ban on plastic straw use. (More cities are following suit.) Across the country more than 100 restaurants and venues have pledged to go strawless. Most importantly, 30 million straws were kept out of the waste stream. And we're just getting started.
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