From: Biodiversity Project
Published September 14, 2004 07:20 PM

Could Beer Coasters Really Help Save the Great Lakes?

MADISON, Wis. (September 14, 2004) The Great Lakes coastline is famous for its rocky beaches, sandy dunes, recreation, and, if one Wisconsin conservation group gets its way, its educational beer coasters. Biodiversity Project, a Madison-based national conservation group developed the coasters, which feature a striking picture of the Great Lakes and the words, "Welcome to your wonderful, important, magnificent, vulnerable Great Lakes." The back side offers some educational points about Great Lakes protection concerns.


The coasters are part of a larger public education initiative by Biodiversity Project, called Great Lakes Forever. "Our greatest challenge is letting people know that the Lakes need our help now," notes Jeffrey Potter, coordinator of the program. "Wisconsinites are proud of the Great Lakes and feel a strong personal responsibility to protect them," he continues, "but the Lakes are so huge and have played such an important role in defining our region's identity and history, that sometimes it's hard to believe they're vulnerable."


According to Potter, the problems facing the Lakes are complicated, "Pollution is closing our beaches and contaminating our fish. Invasive species and irresponsible development are threatening the survival of our native wildlife. And private interests are pushing to actually buy and sell Great Lakes water for a profit. These are scary issues, but it's not too late to make a change for the better."


Biodiversity Project piloted the Great Lakes Forever initiative this summer in Wisconsin, and plans to take the program to other Great Lakes states in 2005 and beyond. The initiative is testing innovative communication techniques, such as the educational drink coasters in coastal pubs and restaurants, signs in coastal state park, and BioBlitz events, day-long biological inventories of neighborhood parks, conducted by scientists and the public. All of the materials are backed by a new website - www.greatlakesforever.org - which features additional information about the Great Lakes and steps we can all take to help protect them.


"We are pleased to be part of this creative initiative," notes Laurie Tomasek, co-proprietor of the popular Yardarm Bar and Grill on Lake Michigan in Racine. "Our restaurant and bar depends on tourism and the tourists depend on the Lake, so it was natural for us to support this effort." Asked how customers were responding to the coasters, Tomasek added, "The graphics are great and they're great quality coasters. These really hit home - some people have asked, 'Where can I sign up?'"


The Great Lakes Forever coasters are being used at local restaurants and bars all along Wisconsin's Great Lakes' coastline, from Racine, through Milwaukee, to Door County, Bayfield and even into Duluth, Minnesota. Potter notes, "Response has been very positive so far. Nearly every restaurant and bar we've approached has welcomed the idea. All of them realize how special the Great Lakes are and they know that when the Lakes are protected, it's good for their lakeside establishments as well. This is just a first step, but as far as collaboration with our Great Lakes businesses go, I'd say that this is a home run."


Look for the "Coastal Coasters" throughout September in pubs and restaurants on Wisconsin's Lake Superior and Michigan shorelines and don't forget to check the flip side for facts about the Great Lakes' vulnerability. To learn more about the program and the Great Lakes, visit the Great Lakes Forever website - www.greatlakesforever.org.


(Editor's Note: Free images to accompany this story are available to download at: http://www.greatlakesforever.org/html/media/coastersimagebank.html)


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Great Lakes Forever is a program of Biodiversity Project. Biodiversity Project advocates for biodiversity by designing and implementing innovative communication strategies that build and motivate a broad constituency to protect biodiversity. A national organization based in Madison, Wisconsin, the Biodiversity Project has worked with leaders in policy, advocacy, education, science, religious and grantmaking fields since 1995. For more information, visit www.biodiversityproject.org and www.greatlakesforever.org.


For more information, contact:


Jeffery Potter
Director of Communications Programs
Biodiversity Project
214 N. Henry St.
Suite 201
Madison, WI 53703
jpotter@biodiverse.org


Web site:
www.biodiversityproject.org


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