Emily Conn: “They listened. I made a difference.”
  • Emily Conn: “They listened. I made a difference.”
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In the public comment period of the Encinitas city council’s March 21 meeting, the city’s Environmental Commission proposed a regulation to eliminate the use of single-use plastic straws in the city’s restaurants. Seven people spoke in favor of a future ordinance.

Restaurant owners, who vehemently opposed last year’s city ban on Styrofoam food containers, were not represented.

Emily Conn, a first-grader at Ocean Knoll Elementary School, who had to be held up to the microphone by her mom, gave an impassioned two-minute speech to the council. Conn reported she had the idea to speak to her school about helping the ocean by switching from plastic straws.

“They listened. I made a difference,” she excitedly told the council. Reportedly, the nine schools in the Encinitas Union School District now use paper straws instead of plastic.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear, who at each council meeting advises residents instead of clapping to support speakers, to raise and wave their “jazz hands,” requested a round of appease for the six-year-old. Conn then passed out aluminum straws to each council member.

Taylor Lee Cinesciro of Ocean Friendly Restaurants, a program of the Surfrider Foundation, told the council the cost to restaurants of paper vs. plastic straws, is the same. Other speakers spoke of plastic straws hurting the environment by ending up in the ocean, and advising of several European countries that appear to be switching to paper straws.

Councilman Mark Muir asked staff to add an educational component for any proposed ordinance, to help encourage restaurants to make the switch. The council voted 5 — 0 to proceed with a proposed ordinance, to be addressed at a future public hearing.

If approved, Encinitas will be the first city in the county to ban a restaurant’s use of plastic straws. The cities of Solana Beach and Del Mar are not far behind, said one speaker.

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