By SOS intern and writer Sarah Cannon
Dear Mr. Keith,
When I first heard your new song, “Red Solo Cup”, I thought it couldn’t possibly be real, but I was unfortunately mistaken. I understand that it’s supposed to be funny; I get where you were trying to go with it (an ode to your favorite beer receptacle), I really do. That said, there are so many things wrong with this song, I’m having a hard time deciding where to begin. I would like to preface this letter by saying I like beer and fun maybe even as much as you do, but in spite of my affinity for a good time, I still have some issues with this song that I’m not able to excuse right off the bat.
As someone who spends quite a lot of time picking up trash at the beaches and has seen firsthand the damage single-use items can cause, I have to object to your love affair with plastic.
Plastic, even in the form of a beer-holding receptacle, is NOT your friend (although the plastic industry may like you to think it is). It’s not friends with the ocean, either, or with wildlife. Contrary to your lyrics, red solo cups are not decomposable in 14 years (in fact, they can take hundreds of years to decompose completely). Plastic never goes away; it only breaks down into smaller pieces that absorb toxic chemicals, are ingested by wildlife, and enter the food chain (ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, anyone?).
And I’m guessing you also didn’t know that the state of California alone spends around $72 million per year to collect and dispose of one-time use disposable cups (*ahem*, red solo cups) and bags? I know that political correctness isn’t exactly your thing, Mr. Keith, but I sincerely hope you weren't aware of these facts when you wrote this song. After all, I can’t imagine that you would encourage people to purchase and use items that will directly harm wildlife and the health of our environment… Just check out the stomach contents of this bird that died after consuming tiny pieces of plastic that came from sources like your red solo cup.
Although I know it wasn't your intent to promote unnecessary plastic use at the expense of the oceans, that’s exactly what you've ended up doing. I think we’d both agree that you’re no expert on the decomposition rates of plastic, but your fans are still going to take your word for it.
I’m trying not to think about how many Toby Keith fans are going to think of your song the next time they go shopping for their “beer receptacles”… but since your video is averaging around 100,000 views a day on YouTube, the number is going to be very high (and I mean panic-attack inducing high). Your song, which was intended to be fun and silly, has potentially influenced people to make a harmful and dangerous choice.
I would like to humbly suggest that in the future, you be aware of the far-reaching (and unintentional) effects that your lyrics can have. Your fame gives you a unique responsibility (and opportunity!) to have a wide-reaching influence. By doing just a little more research and being a tiny bit more attentive to the message you’re sending, a song like this could end up sending a positive message about using less plastic while still shining a spotlight on your fun-loving side; the proverbial “kill-two-birds-with-one-stone,” if you will. I mean, red solo cups aren’t even all that great! Reusable cups are way, way better (and they even come in red)!
I hope you will join me in reducing plastic use by becoming a part of the solution!
Toby Keith's lyrics promoting a disposable lifestyle in Red Solo Cup:
"Now a red solo cup is the best receptacle for barbecues, tailgates fairs and festivals,
And you, sir, do not have a pair of testicles if you prefer drinking from glass.
A red solo cup is cheap and disposable,
In 14 years they are decomposable,
And unlike my home, they are not foreclosable,
Freddy Mac can kiss my ***. Woo"!