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February 1 2010

Safe Bottles for the Babies: Q & A with Washington Toxics Coalition

Climate, Haiti, health care, filibuster, Afghanistan -- just keeping up on everything while taking care of your own day-to-day routine (oh yeah, that) can seem like two full-time jobs. Add on toxic chemicals in baby bottles and sippy cups (like, really?) and that sustainable fortress in the woods is sounding better and better. Luckily, in Washington state, we have many groups looking out for our best interests -- organizing and mobilizing and pressuring the powers that be to get all Spike Lee and do the right thing.
Safe Bottles for the Babies: Q & A with Washington Toxics Coalition

Cute. Safe.

Climate, Haiti, health care, filibuster, Afghanistan -- just keeping up on everything while taking care of your own day-to-day routine (oh yeah, that) can seem like two full-time jobs. Add on toxic chemicals in baby bottles and sippy cups (like, really?) and that sustainable fortress in the woods is sounding better and better.

Luckily, in Washington state, we have many groups, including Washington Toxics Coalition, The Environmental Priorities Coalition, and Washington Conservation Voters looking out for our best interests -- organizing and mobilizing and pressuring the powers that be to get all Spike Lee and do the right thing.

In January 2010 the Washington State House and Senate did the right thing and approved a bill  to limit the sale of baby bottles, sippy cups and other children's food and drink containers made with the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA). (Studies of BPA say it increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.)

We checked in with Washington Toxics Coalition Website and Publications Manager Josh Schramm to hear more about WTC's online efforts around the Safe Baby Bottle Campaign: 

Groundwire (GW): Congrats on the Safe Baby Bottle act passing both the House and Senate. Tell us how your online efforts contributed to this win. Who got involved?

Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC): We did a few fun things to get people more engaged like an e-postcard and an online game. We also posted regularly to Facebook and Twitter. We did a few offline engagement activities as well such as organizing a Baby Bottle Swap with WashPIRG, Neighborhood House, and Catholic Charities. At the event, parents could swap their BPA laden items for new BPA free baby bottles and we would educate them about BPA and The Safe Baby Bottle Act at the same time. We were lucky enough to have The Safe Baby Bottle Act be one of the environmental priorities this year. They helped us distribute our online action campaign, sent emails to their supporters, and posted information about the bill on their website.
We also used our email capabilities to keep legislators informed about BPA with weekly updates, like when the FDA came out against the chemical. I think these substantive updates really helped the legislators feel informed and helped keep the issue in the spotlight.

GW: Tell us about the “Send a Message in a Bottle to your Legislators!” online campaign.

WTC: We brainstormed the idea of sending messages in a (baby) bottle. In the past we sent paper postcards, which we had constituents sign and then delivered en masse to legislators. This year we decided to try an online campaign instead. We created a page online via Democracy in Action that looked like a giant bottle with a slip of paper in it where you could actually write a message to your legislator and email it to them. Then as a fun bonus you could send an e-card message in a bottle to your friends and family asking them to take action. We distributed this to our own supporters and the Environmental Priorities Coalition to theirs and we had over 1,000 letters sent within the first day. Now, the focus has changed to getting BPA out of sports water bottles, we’ll tweak the message in a bottle email to be a sports water bottle, instead of a baby bottle.

GW: The “Spin the Baby Bottle” game card is a good piece of marketing collateral.  How are you using it?

WTC: This was another team brainstorm on our part. On Lobby Day constituents typically give each legislator a bag of gifts which are put together by the event organizers. Each group submits a gift. We decided to create a spinner game highlighting the possible effects of the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA). It turned out great and it highlights the risk involved with continued use of the chemical in a very easy to understand way. After we made the hardcopy games I decided to create an online version in Flash. We’ve used it on Facebook too as well as linked to it in our email alerts. You can play it here.

WAToxicsGameSpinner


GW: From those with a little bit of time to help to those who want to really take this on: how can Washington State residents help the BPA ban extend beyond children's food and drink items?

WTC: Right now you can still send a message in a (sports water) bottle from our website www.watoxics.org and ask your friends and family to do the same. Legislators care about what their constituents think, so it is important to show them you care about this issue. You can also contact our field organizer Anna Davis, adavis@watoxics.org if you would like to volunteer to phone bank. We often need last minute help before a bill goes to vote.

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