About the Campaign
The Houston Zoo connects communities with animals, inspiring action to save wildlife. As part of our mission, it is critical that we take action to save wildlife, while empowering our local community to do the same.
We are partnering with local bars and restaurants to help them transition from single-use plastic straws to offering reusable or non-plastic straws (like those made of paper), only on request. Here’s why:
- Single-use plastic items like bags, bottles, and straws are typically used once, and end up in our waterways like bayous, lakes, and oceans if not contained properly. It’s estimated that in the US we use 500 million single-use plastic straws every day!
- Animals like sea turtles may mistake a plastic item for food, ingesting it and causing them to get sick.
- The Houston Zoo treats more than 60 wild sea turtles a year in our vet clinic, some of them with plastic-related injuries. We’re committed to reducing plastic use in the area to protect these animals in the wild.
We began working with several Houston bars and restaurants in 2018 to pilot this campaign. Since that time, these bars have eliminated 181,000 plastic straws from their businesses.
If you are a bar or restaurant owner/manager and want to help us save wildlife, please consider joining this campaign by completing the commitment form below!
Who's With Us?
Joining the campaign is simple. All you need to do is pledge to help save wildlife by eliminating single-use plastic straws and follow these steps:
- Swap out your plastic straws for a reusable or non-plastic alternative (we have info on vendors in our partner toolkit).
- Move your straws behind the bar/restaurant serving area so they are out of reach of guests, waitstaff, and bartenders.
- Offer your new reusable or non-plastic straws only upon request.
- Celebrate how you’re reducing plastics and saving sea turtles with your customers!
We’ve researched reusable and non-plastic alternatives and put together additional materials to help you get started.
Social Media Images: (Click to download)
Take the Pledge and Save Sea Turtles
To be part of this success, please consider joining our campaign by completing the commitment form below.
- Three months after taking the pledge: You will be asked to share information on what reusable or non-plastic straw option you have chosen.
- Six months after taking the pledge: You will be asked to report on how many reusable or non-plastic straws you have ordered, and how long the supply has lasted. Report on any barriers you have encountered since making the change (difficulty obtaining straws, patron responses, etc.)
- Document your progress: Take photos of your wildlife-saving practices in action so we can highlight your work on our social media channels!
Why is it important for bars and restaurants to eliminate plastic straws?
Straws cannot be recycled and are one of the top ten pieces of garbage polluting the oceans. By eliminating plastic straws at the source and offering a reusable or non-plastic alternative only upon request, you can keep hundreds of thousands of plastics from going into landfills and our oceans each year. This prevents marine wildlife and birds from ingesting and getting entangled in plastic and helps in keeping our oceans healthier.
How do we join the campaign?
Take the pledge and follow the simple steps in the “Who’s With Us?” section.
What benefits will we receive from joining the campaign?
- Going straw free not only saves sea turtles, it also puts a lot of money back in your pocket.
- Join the ranks of other like-minded, socially responsible businesses in the area, growing your network.
- Receive inclusion on this site, and have your efforts highlighted via Houston Zoo social media channels!
- Gain access to Houston Zoo messaging explaining the importance of your establishment’s commitment to saving wildlife.
What if I have a patron that needs a single-use plastic straw for medical reasons?
Remember to have a straw alternative on hand for younger patrons and individuals with diverse abilities.
Will plastic alternatives harm the quality of my cocktails?
No. New straw alternatives come on the market regularly due to the popularity of this movement, helping to meet the industry’s needs. Our partner toolkit will provide you with a list of great alternatives that have been tried and tested by our current partners in the bar and restaurant industry. We encourage you to have fun with your transition to reusable or non-plastic straws and test different samples to find the option that meets your specific needs!
How is the Houston Zoo doing its part and saving marine animals?
- Through plastics reduction:
- Since going single use plastic bag, straw and bottle free, the zoo has eliminated approximately 80,000 plastic bags, 300,000 plastic bottles, and 23,000 plastic straws each year.
- The Houston Zoo leads monthly cleanups of plastic pollution on the Surfside Jetty to save wildlife like sea turtles and coastal birds. Since cleanups started in 2014, Zoo staff have removed 400 lbs. of fishing line, 1,928 lbs. of recycling, and 3,736 lbs. of trash from the jetty, keeping the ocean clean for wildlife.
- Partnering with wildlife organizations:
- The Houston Zoo works with local partners to change behavior around single-use plastic consumption.
- Veterinary team provides care to injured or stranded sea turtles that have been rescued by our partners at NOAA.
- We support the protection of marine species like sea turtles, sharks, and rays through partnerships with several wildlife conservation organizations. These organizations include MarAlliance (Central America), Ecology Project International (Galapagos Islands, Ecuador), and UC Davis Latin America Program (Argentina).