I broke my promise and found my voice

31 August 2015

If you are an avid reader of this blog you would remember the promise I made with Promise or Pay for Plastic Free July. Well, I broke the promise.


For those new, this is the backstory: I partnered with Promise or Pay for the Plastic Free July challenge. The goal of Promise or Pay is to help encourage people who want to achieve a goal by putting money down. Participants can make a promise, like giving up plastic for July, then put money down as an incentive to stick to the goal. If you break your promise, the money goes to a charity (in this case it went to the Two Hands Project). If you succeed and keep your promise, the money stays in your pocket. There is an option for family and friends to donate money that will go to the charity if you keep your promise.

Here is the original post. 

Seeing how I already lived a plastic free life I decided to make a different promise – convince a local café to move their plastic straws under the counter. I gave myself 35 days, put $100 down and managed to get a couple donations.

I don’t like plastic straws. I don’t quite understand why we need them beyond medical reasons. After all human beings drank for a loooooong time without them and survived. I feel like I pick up straws daily on my walk from home to the station. I receive messages from older readers who remember when straws were paper not plastic. There are reusable options like steel, glass and bamboo. Really, there is no need for the plastic straw. They are used once and thrown out, sitting somewhere, a wasted resource

When I made the promise the café I wanted to approach had already been decided. It is a short walk from my house, the usual place we feel like having a weekend breakfast outing. Besides the close proximity and yummy food, their stance on cooking with as much local and seasonal food makes me smile. Plus they sell reusable coffee cups

With 35 days, easy walk plus being a sustainably minded café, how did I end up breaking my promise?

Simply for the same reason I made the promise in the beginning.

Fear.

My true intention for making the promise was to push myself out of my comfort zone. I have made the necessary changes in my life to live with less plastic and create less trash. Now it’s time for me to take what I know and share it not just on my blog but beyond. I have mentioned before that I want to become more active in my community and educate others about living with less plastic and trash. The promise was part of the step.

While I had 35 days, I was overseas for 21 of those. So I had 14 days - two weeks! I left it until the second last day of the promise to approach them. I kept putting it off, making up excuses. I was afraid of being laughed at, rejected or just made to feel stupid. It never crossed my mind that they would be receptive. I let my fear get the better of me.

On the afternoon I decided to visit the café I collected two of my stainless steel straws and wrote out a list of places to buy reusable straws (steel, glass and bamboo) and also wrote down the Responsible Café’s website for them. Off I trotted to the café. As I walked up to the door I saw a gaggle of teenage girls sipping coffee. I felt that pang of fear again. Would they hear my conversation with the café and laugh?

I then swiftly pulled myself together. After all I am a woman in her early 30s and I was doing this so these girls won’t (hopefully) have to wrestle with unnecessary plastic.

The café door opened, I approached the counter and asked for the manager. They were not in and would be back later in the week. I was a little bummed. My sister & nephew would be in town and it would be past the deadline. BUT the waiter was so kind and listened to my hasty spiel. They took my list of suggestions promising the manager would be delighted to read them.

As I walked home, listening to the train rattle past and planes flying overhead, I felt something shift. Yes I had broken my promise, but I conquered my fear. My promise was not just about the plastic straws it was about me finding a voice. I was always scared of sounding like I was preaching, being annoying or just made to feel useless.

A couple of days later I was scrolling through my newsfeed and saw that the café had signed up to be a Responsible Café from my suggestion.

As for their straws? I checked in last week and the plastic ones are GONE! Paper straws have replaced them.

I have not had time to contact other cafes yet but I am going to, because I had nothing to be worried about. If people knock me back, big deal, I will just go to another café.

If you are like me, a bit of an introvert and shy, don’t listen to those naysayer voices in your head stopping you from speaking up. Leave a note, have a word when it’s quite (they are busy working after all) or drop the establishment an email. You’re an important voice in your community and you can be an agent of change.

Thank you Promise or Pay for helping me find my voice.

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