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Brewster resident named Mass. USA TODAY Woman of the Year for plastic bottle ban efforts

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Cape Cod Times, February 2024

Late last year, Madhavi Venkatesan was driving toward Boston from Cape Cod and saw a driver chuck a muffin out their vehicle’s window. The muffin, she said, its wrapper still attached, lay squarely in the middle of the road. As the driver continued on their way, Venkatesan, founder and executive director of Sustainable Practices, an environmental action group, pulled over, scooped up the treat and dropped it into a nearby trash bin. First of all, Venkatesan said during a January interview that the driver was littering. Second, the offender created a potential death instrument for an animal, which could have run into the highway to eat the muffin, she said.

“How we treat animals and the Earth is eventually going to be the way we treat ourselves,” said Venkatesan, a faculty member in the Department of Economics at Northeastern University. “The decency and the compassion that you have shows how much regard you have for the most vulnerable.”

With economics and sustainability in mind, Venkatesan founded Sustainable Practices in 2016. Along with her nonprofit’s team, she has seemingly broken the seal on plastic initiatives throughout Cape Cod and the Islands. In 2019, Sustainable Practices initiated a municipal plastic bottle ban, which focused on eliminating non-emergency single-use plastic bottles by town governments and the sale of beverages in single-use plastic containers on municipal property across Barnstable County.

By June 2021, all 15 towns on the Cape had the policy in place. In 2020, the group also initiated a commercial single-use plastic water bottle ban, which called for the prohibiting the sale of non-carbonated, non-flavored water in single-use plastic bottles of less than one gallon in size within town jurisdictions. By 2023, a commercial ban went into effect in nine towns, including Brewster, Chatham, Eastham, Falmouth, Harwich, Orleans, Provincetown, Wellfleet, and Yarmouth.

Read more at Cape Cod Times.

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