'The sky is the limit for this 8-year-old': Steveston boy makes a mark in his crusade against plastic straws

'The sky is the limit for this 8-year-old': Steveston boy makes a mark in his crusade against plastic straws

May 11, 2018
By
Susana da Silva

Shay Soo is tackling a global problem one poster board, one business and one straw at a time.
 
The eight-year-old was inspired by a school project.
 
"They asked us to do something that would have an impact, and I saw a video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in his nose," said Shay.
 
"And I thought of how many plastic straws we use everyday."
 
After talking to his mom about the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans and reflecting on the fact his Steveston community was a fishing village, he came up with a plan.
 
Shay decided to contact local straw-using businesses, offering to come in and convince them to change their ways.
 
When an email garnered little response, he headed out on foot, door-to-door.
 
Six businesses took him up on his offer and he says he conquered his nerves and made them presentations which, he says, was made easier, because they were pretty receptive.
 
"Lots of them stopped using straws or (decided) to use paper or corn instead of plastic," Shay said.
 
Plastic waste is one of the pre-eminent threats to ocean life, according to the Ocean Wise Conservation Association, the umbrella organization that includes the Vancouver Aquarium.
 
It says for example, turtles eat plastic bags believing the items are jellyfish, while albatross skim the ocean and pick up bits of brightly-coloured plastic that they feed to their chicks, at times killing them.
 
'An 8-year-old came in here and completely schooled us'
One of the businesses that invited Shay and his colourful poster board in, was Purpose Smoothie.
 
"The way he presented it and how it fails to break down and how we are eating that and the stats he had — it leaves my mind blown," said owner Braedan Ralla.
 
"An eight-year-year-old came in here and completely schooled us on how we should eliminate using plastic straws."
 
Ralla was so blown away, he says he immediately asked Shay for some other options, since most of his customers want straws in their smoothies.
 
He says Shay went away and a week later came back with the name of a manufacturer of compostable straws. Ralla put in an order right away.
 
Down the block, Steveston Seafood House also made a switch. Owner Shane Dagan placed an order for corn-based straws the day after Shay spoke to him.
 
"It is about two and a half times the cost, but in the scheme of things, it is not a big deal," Dagan said. "We are a seafood restaurant, so it makes good business sense for us."
 
Meanwhile, the Catch Kitchen and Bar will only offer straws upon request as of June 1.
 
"His presentation was just that good," said owner John Yacoub. "He is just an awesome little man and this is part of doing what we can for the environment."
 
'This was a pretty big risk for him'
Shay's mom, Shawna Soo, says doing presentations like this is a little out of character for him. "This was a big risk for him. He is a quiet guy," said Soo. "I think it gave him a lot of confidence."
 
Ralla thinks Shay has a bright future. "The kid is so amazing, and I think the sky is the limit for this eight-year-old," Ralla said. "It is really inspiring for people to not only have an idea, but to take those action steps."
 
Shay is hoping more businesses will be in touch to get presentations of their own.