J.K Rowling wrote, “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”
In this vein, Pacific Palisades resident Sheila Morovati has single-handedly made a difference in environmental issues on several fronts, all from a simple premise.
Her activism started when her two children, now 13 and 11, were toddlers. At restaurants, they were given crayons to amuse themselves until food arrived.
It bothered Morovati that these barely used crayons were thrown away. She researched and discovered that annually about 150 million crayons, which are made of paraffin wax and don’t decompose, go into the trash.
Morovati proceeded to create the Crayon Collection (CC) in 2009, which “collects lightly used crayons and redistributes them to teachers and schools throughout the community.”
She contacted local restaurants and asked that the crayons be given (and repurposed) to Title 1 Schools or Head Start Centers, and the effort spread nationally.
The National Endowment of the Arts suggested that Morovati start a crayon curriculum for schools, so she did—and it was well-received because it didn’t cost the schools anything. Her work was featured in Parents magazine in 2016, in the Huffington Post, and on several radio and television shows; the program has now gone national. Visit: crayoncollection.org.
Morovati’s next campaign also started from an observation. When she was dining at restaurants in Malibu, she noticed that “the waiters were bringing a glass of water with a plastic straw—and they went into the trash.”
She convinced the Malibu City Council to watch a documentary, “Straws,” and then advocated that they pass a ban on single-use plastic straws, which they did in 2018. The new regulation requires customers to request a straw if they want one rather than being given one by default.
Morovati’s work was featured in the L.A. Times, The Washington Post, the NY Daily News and on NPR.
After founding Habits of Waste, she had yet another commonsense idea that could keep plastics out of the ocean.
Morovati told Circling the News that according to one study, “Forty billion pieces of plastic cutlery are thrown away each year.” She asked the question, “Why not ask for [these utensils] if you need them — and not have them automatically put in a takeout bag?”
This was the start of the “Cut Out Cutlery” campaign.
“Every day I see the ocean,” the Palisades resident said. “It’s like it winks at me and says, ‘Do something.’”
The something is getting rid of all the plastic that ends up in the ocean, such as plastic spoons and forks left on the sand at beaches everywhere.
Morovati said that Uber Eats, Postmates and Grubhub have recently changed their default setting so that no one receives plastic cutlery unless they opt-in to request it.
“Postmates informed us that by joining the #cutoutcutlery campaign, they saved 122 packs of plastic cutlery from entering the waste stream,” Morovati said.
On the Habits of Waste website, there’s a place to print out a poster that proclaims “#cutoutcultery,” and asks those who want to help, such as Resilient Palisades, the nonprofit environmental group in Pacific Palisades, to bring awareness to the issue.
Resilient Palisades leaders wrote: “We are hoping for all of the Pacific Palisades’ restaurants to get on board with the campaign.” So far, the following restaurants will not automatically add eating utensils, unless specifically asked: Kayndaves, Porto Via, Palisades Pizza, Vittorio’s, Patrick’s Roadhouse, Cafe Delfini, Casa Nostra, Taj Palace and Golden Bull.
“With Covid and the massive shift to take-out and delivery, cutting out plastic cutlery is more important than ever. Cut Out Cutlery is the Palisades version of a national campaign from Habits of Waste,” said Resilient Palisades co-founder Ryan Craig. “To help restaurants save money and reduce plastic waste, participating restaurants shift the take-out and delivery default from including plastic cutlery to excluding it.”
Morovati has now been featured in numerous publications including The Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, BuzzFeed and CBS Morning Show, and on her website she writes: “You Matter. Individual action for collective change. We believe in the power of one.”
One woman’s observation, put into action, has resulted in change that affects people everywhere.
Morovati has started on her next campaign: #8 meals. She told CTN that a 40 percent reduction in animal-based foods (8 meals/week) by a family of four, is the same reduction in carbon dioxide as if a family would switch to a hybrid automobile. There is a new app that gives options for swapping animal-based meals for plant-based meals and recipes.
Morovati points out, “You don’t have to be perfect to make a difference.” In other words, try being an “imperfect vegan.”
“It’s probably the most important thing I’ve even done,” she said.