Beth O’Neal Eliminates Plastic One Festival at a Time

September 28, 2017
My name is Beth O’Neal. I have lived in Port Townsend for 22 years and raised my two daughters here. I love being surrounded by the water, marine life, and this charming town. After graduating from massage school in Seattle, I moved to Port Townsend and began to build my own practice. The Wooden Boat Festival is something I have always looked forward to; I loved the great music and checking out the beautiful boats many years before I signed up as a volunteer.

My husband, Andi Neisen, took the WSU Beach Watchers class in 2009. He shared what he learned in regards to plastic covering our beaches and polluting our oceans, and that reduction is key as recycling does not always work and can result in plastic being dumped in the ocean. Burt Howells, a fellow Beach Watcher student, and Andi worked with the Wooden Boat Festival to educate people at the Festival and in the classrooms about the impact of water bottles on our environment. Burt had a dream of making the WBF plastic free, and they discussed ways to minimize and eliminate the 10,000 plastic cups used per Festival. That is where I was able to help.

After volunteering in 2014, Barb Trailer asked me to co-captain Bar Harbor in 2015. I said yes with the stipulation that I’d be allowed to reduce plastic usage at the Festival. The Northwest Maritime Center was on board and invested in the glasses and infrastructure needed to make it happen. In 2015 at Bar Harbor we reduced the plastic waste by 98%. Last year it was 100% reduced. This year, in 2017, all of the bars were using glasses, and, we were able to reduce the plastic utensils by 75%. We are able to have this success because of the wonderful, dedicated, hard-working volunteers we have at the WBF, and because of the NWMC’s investment in the project.

My hope is to have all of Port Townsend’s festivals plastic-free so that we can be a model for others to follow. This year, Concerts on the Dock implemented a plan with stainless steel and ceramic cups, and the Uptown Pub used glass at the Uptown Fair. Next July, Seattle is banning plastic straws and plastic utensils. I hope all Port Townsend restaurants start to do their part to reduce plastic. The time is now. In the very near future, the plastics in the oceans will outweigh the marine life. I am on a plastic reduction crusade. A website is in the making. I appreciate the WBF’s support and willingness to be pioneers in plastic reduction. I love the work the NWMC is doing and the fun team of staff to work with. I look forward to what we do next year.