From the Editor’s Desk 83:
Metal Straws
Cloth Towels
and Napkins

When I left this house this morning to take a walk through my lovely stretch of Durham, I took an apple and put a cloth napkin in my back pocket.


You know the apple a day and the doctor away; but the cloth napkin was the result of a life changing conversation I had with River Takada Capel a few weeks back on the Clarion Content’s YouTube show, “Sights on the City”.

Normally, I take a paper towel.

Amidst a larger discussion about art, the life of an artist, and her personal journey, River told me that she had started carrying a metal straw with her everywhere she went. It was such a simple move, but it wasn’t just a gesture. She never uses a plastic straw anymore.

I reported the conversation to my life coach, the co-working guru, Katie DeConto. Katie told me she hadn’t personally bought a roll of paper towels in ten years. She was one hundred percent cloth towels and rags in her house.

I have been on cloth napkins for about a dozen years now, and knew tacitly for some time, that paper towels going away were next step.

Cloth napkins came to me when I was a live-in tutor for elementary school students in house that used zero paper napkins and zero paper towels.

I had simply been lazy. Paper towels are easy.

But to hear River and Katie in back-to-back weeks report that they had eliminated straws, paper towels, and paper napkins from their lives was inspiring and powerful.

I consciously stuck that cloth napkin in my back pocket today.

I moonlight in a restaurant, that probably no different from many, goes through a case of plastic straws, ten boxes of 1,000 per box, nearly every month.

You want to stop the plastic island in the Pacific? You want fight deforestation on the only habitable planet in the galaxy we’ve discovered thus far?

You could do worse than to get yourself a metal straw, some cloth towels, rags, and napkins.

I want to further say, that these kinds of conversations are why the Clarion Content exists and why I love it. It is wonderful and powerful to be able to connect with people working to be the change the wish to see in the world. It is one of the roles of media to bring these people to the fore.

Laura Ritchie and I more than a half-decade ago had a conversation that still sticks with me. We agreed Durham is an intentional community, a place where people deliberately care.

In the parlance of today’s high schoolers, we are a city of “try-hards”. And we are unashamed and unabashed about it.

Perhaps, that’s what we have to communicate to the nubes. The throngs moving here every day because our city is “cool”.


Well, yes, maybe. Thanks. We guess.

But hey, what our city is, really is, is a place where people try hard. Where people care. Where people are intentional.

This is a city that loved our ethic so much we married ourselves.

Whether you are a newbie or a long time resident, if you want to see this spirit in action, come out to Beaver Queen in Duke Park this Saturday. Bring a friend or a family member or a neighbor. Or come alone, you won’t be a stranger for long.


from the Editor’s Desk is written by Publisher: Aaron Mandel


1 River is an amazing artist, teacher, and maker who lives and works in Durham.

2 I think River told me she got her straw from Don’t Waste Durham.

3 You have heard me proclaim on the crucial role of media in free society previously.

Aaron Mandel

Aaron Mandel is a writer and an accomplished public speaker. He is the publisher of the Clarion Content. For more than a decade, the Clarion Content has covered Durham’s arts, politics, music, and cultural milieu. From breaking news stories to the hottest local acts, the Clarion Content is on the scene. The Clarion Content published more than twenty distinguished guest columnists and garnered nearly a million views. Mandel is a volunteer for the Durham Mighty Pen Literacy Project and serves as the President of the Board of Sustain-A-Bull Durham, a local small business collective with more than 200 members. He writes regularly on the Clarion Content and has been quietly writing fiction since the 4th grade. Mandel has been published in the Raleigh News and Observer. He has also produced numerous art shows, including, “Durham under Development”. He was a featured speaker at “The State of Publishing” conference. He has presented to Durham Chamber of Commerce, “Chamber U” on the “New Media”. He has also served as the play-by-play announcer for the D.B.L., a Durham youth basketball league. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Religious Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington. An avid policy debater at Indiana and a Nation Debate Tournament qualifier, Mandel was also a member of the New Jersey State Champion two-person Policy Debate Team. He has lived in North Carolina, New Jersey, California, Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Indiana, and Baja California, Mexico.

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