Organizations in England often use beer mats, known in the United States as coasters, to promote education not always related to beer. Now, Biodiversity Project, a Wisconsin-based national conservation group, has made coasters part of its Great Lakes Forever project.
The group has created 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 educational points about Great Lakes protection concerns.
“Our greatest challenge is letting people know that the Lakes need our help now,” said Jeffrey Potter, coordinator of the program. “Wisconsinites are proud of the Great Lakes and feel a strong personal responsibility to protect them,” he said, “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.”
Biodiversity Project piloted the Great Lakes Forever initiative this summer in Wisconsin. The initiative tests 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.
“We are pleased to be part of this creative initiative,” said 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 said, “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, Minn.