A Big But
"Passing the Butt" [Jan. 24] was a great title for your recent cover story—unfortunately, the context was wrong. It should have been a reference to individuals ignorantly passing off their responsibility to others in regard to their own personal garbage. The author states in his first paragraph, "[E]ven the most environmentally sensitive of smokers revert to a familiar strategy: Drop butt to sidewalk, grind with foot, and walk away." Well, actually, they don't—which may lead us to believe that we have a deficit of environmentally sensitive smokers in Seattle. (I'm not sure how to feel about this.) Regardless, that doesn't solve the problem of mounds of cigarettes littering our sidewalks. For this, I have no profound solution, but writing (a cover story, no less) about who should fight this one out, bar/restaurant owners or the city, is a ridiculous handoff— one that completely disregards the most logical and sensible solution: personal responsibility for your trash.
I think Brian Miller misses the point. Not to sound like an uptight Seattleite, but has it ever occurred to Seattle smokers to hold the smoked cigarette by the end, bend over while holding the butt, extinguish the lit end under the heel of one's shoe or by rubbing while still holding the end, and then take the remnants back inside to an available receptacle (e.g., inside the bathroom)? I know it's a little gross to perform such an operation, but is it so much worse than littering our sidewalks, streets, storm drains, and eventually our waterways?
As a smoker and a resident of tobacco- unfriendly Marin County, Calif., I've found an attractive solution to butt disposal. Several years ago, I purchased, online, a "purse ashtray," a charming, silver-plated accessory that nestles in the palm of my hand when in use. It has a hinged lid with a built-in cigarette rest; I can stub out my smoke, close it up, and dispose of it later. It's an elegant little thing that has earned me compliments even from nonsmokers. It cost around $10; similar items can be found by searching for "pocket ashtray."
Remember how restaurants and bars used to give out free matches with their logos? How about they pamper their smoking clientele with imprinted pocket/purse ashtrays? I imagine in bulk they'd be very inexpensive.
Mill Valley, CA
Don't Blame Ban
Your story describing the massive increase in cigarette litter was an interesting look into the fallout of the smoking ban. Pretty sad to see that the smoking ban itself was being pointed out as the guilty party. Kind of reminds me of the man who caused the multicar pileup on the freeway while playing with his BlackBerry, and the media proclaimed that the handheld device was at fault.
Here's a radical suggestion: Business owners might invest in a used coffee can on the sidewalk, filled with sand, and a sign that says "Park Your Butts Here." The city could follow up by busting smokers who can't seem to figure out how to take responsibility for their waste. Too simple?
The other option is to passively reframe the entire argument and relieve absolutely everyone of any responsibility by agreeing that it's not the smokers, and not the ban, but the cigarettes themselves that are causing this problem. Wouldn't that make everyone feel better? Call it the Seattle Solution!
If in fact Seattle is a city where people are well-educated and care about environmental issues (and I would think these same characteristics don't simply stop at the city limits but extend outwards into the surrounding suburbs as well), then the problem of cigarette butts littering Seattle sidewalks should be easy to solve. It's just a matter of education.
Smokers here should follow the example of smokers who attend the Burning Man festival, which operates under a "Leave No Trace" philosophy in order to continue using public land for its annual gatherings. As a result of aggressive educational efforts sponsored by the event's organizers, Burners have learned that if they want to smoke, they must carry a small receptacle for butts and ashes (like, say, an empty breath mint tin). Because of the success of these measures, one sees very few cigarettes on the ground at these events—which is impressive for a weeklong festival that attracts nearly 40,000 participants. Burning Man's education campaign has worked largely because most Burners share the same kind of traits that Seattle's residents are often credited with.
Seattle could do this, too, and if the reputation of its citizens has any validity, a "Leave No Trace" attitude could be voluntarily adopted by our local smokers as well.
A Rave for Review
I don't know about the movie yet, but I liked Ella Taylor's review of Venus ["Exit Feet First," Jan. 24]. She seems to be a new writer onthe movie beat, refreshing, and hopefully she stays.
The editor responds: You need to read the paper more often, Bob! We have been running pieces from Ms. Taylor (who's at L.A. Weekly) since last year. But you're right, the Venus review was especially great.
Not Bainbridge's Business
I note that Chris Van Dyk, so concerned with how Seattle spends its money [Letters, Jan. 24], lives on Bainbridge Island. For me, a Seattleite who wants the Sonics to stay in town, I say, Chris—move to Seattle, or shut the heck up.
Bring Back the Dead
What happened to Pet Cemetery? I miss it! Well, I don't miss pets dying, but I do miss the funny lives they have all lived.
I'm lobbying to bring it back; some pet needs to be memorialized. Please, pretty please, bring it back.
The editor responds: Pet Cemetery will return from hiatus soon. No begging necessary.
We here at the Northwest Actors Studio would like to thank John Longenbaugh for inducting his new column with a piece on—well—us [Longenbaugh on Theatre, Jan. 10]. It's true that during the run of Carlotta's Late Night Wing-Ding there was "organized chaos." It's true that we still "inhabit the top two floors of a converted auto-repair garage" and have "couches instead of chairs" (we also have a 99-seat raked main stage) and a resident mini schnauzer. But it is also true that we have made incredible strides—forward. Presently we are at a crux, maybe on the verge of fading into Seattle history, like so much of Seattle's theater arts, as claimed in "Played Out" [Jan. 3]. Thus, we'd like to thank Mr. Longenbaugh for returning to Seattle Weekly and awakening the city to the crises at hand; but more than that, we'd like to offer an open invitation to visit us from time to time to see the changes made over the course of his absence and learn about the changes in the works.
Irfan Shariff, on behalf of the
Northwest Actors Studio,
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