Stick That Butt In Your Pocket! An Interview With The Pocket Ashtray’s Jack Elliman

Attention smokers of the world! We’re about to let you in on a little secret. No longer do your darts need to plague the environment! Smoke (somewhat) guilt-free and do your part to help keep our corner of the globe that little bit greener.

“How do I do this,” I hear you ask mid-drag. The answer comes in the form of The Pocket Ashtray: a reusable and flexible foil-lined pouch. Drop in your butt, snap it shut, and an air seal suffocates burning matter trapping odour inside.

Kora was fortunate enough to connect with Head Gardener  / Head Honcho /Head Planter and Waterer / Big Cheese of BRAINGARDEN (the minds behind The Pocket Ashtray), Jack and Sarah Elliman to get the skinny on this incredible initiative.


Where did the inspiration to make The Pocket Ashtray come from?

My baby momma Sarah and I have always been passionate about protecting the environment, so when my best friend Jessica Kimura came back from Japan with an ashtray for your pocket we were hyped! She’s like “Jack, you’re gonna love this,” and boy oh boy did I ever I tell you what! So much so that we decided to turn it into our hobby. We knew that it would be a huge hit at festivals like Shambhala and Basscoast. It’s something that could actually work, something that could actually influence the way people party if presented properly. So we started out renegade at festivals, just handing them out by donation to make our investment back. We found that people will gladly not litter if there is a convenient option… and that’s why they work so well. They put out burning matter, keep in that nasty stank, and encourage people to respect the land and each other.  

Back then we called it the ‘party proper pouch’ and it quickly became an effective tool that actually got results, it was a perfect ice breaker and the message was always received with gratitude and appreciation. Things really took off when we joined forces with The Shambhala Green River Collective and made custom branded Shambhala Pocket Ashtrays. After great successes at multiple events (virtually no butts on the ground post fest and having a huge amount of butts for recycling) we have now turned it into a home based business where we can make an honest living while staying home and raising our wee man. It has spread far and wide around the world as more and more solid folk like Jason “Opi” Berry in Cali have taken it upon themselves to get similar educational outreach initiatives going using their own hard earned cash and crowd-funding campaigns!

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On Facebook you had posted the stat that ONE cigarette butt can contaminate 40L of water. What a terrifying fact! How much water do you think your amazing invention has saved?

A BUTT LOAD ! The numbers are all over the place as there hasn’t been enough clear studies. Butt … Our original stat of 1 butt can contaminate 40 litres of water came from a study where multiple fish died after being in water contaminated by only 1 cigarette filter.

Throughout the years we’ve come across a few different stats regarding the amount of water that can be contaminated by 1 cigarette butt, it all depends on what the source defines as “contaminated” but we look at it this way: to fill a standard bath tub requires about 260 litres of water so if there were 1 butt per 40 litres then there would be 6 and a half cigarette butts floating around in your bath tub. Would you have a bath in there? Would you bathe your child or your pet in that water? Would you drink that water? So if we use that stat the number of liters of water we’ve saved from contamination could be calculated like this: 1 Pocket Ashtray can hold about 1 pack of cigarette butts, so 20 butts. Our Pocket Ashtrays are reusable and last a long time, we’ve come across people who still have their original one from 4 years ago.

According to a Tobacco Report done by the University of Waterloo Ontario in 2015 the average Canadian smoker smokes 13.9 cigarettes per day which is 5073.5 per year. For the sake of having a fathomable number to answer your question – lets say 2/3 of Pocket Ashtray users are ‘average’ Canadian smokers. If we calculate this number using 2/3 of the Pocket Ashtrays we’ve distributed since the beginning of our initiative that would be approximately 46667 Pocket Ashtrays times 5073.5 cigarette butts per year times 4 years = 947060098 cigarette butts times 40 litres of water = 37882403920 litres of water saved. That is 10007472391 gallons. Ten billion, seven million, four hundred seventy two thousand, three hundred ninety one gallons. WOO!

I dare say that is a modest estimation. In reality we have distributed over 70,000 Pocket Ashtrays over the past few years so that number could be much larger. However! This number is only valid if our Pocket Ashtray homies are sending their cigarette butts (for free) to our friends at Terracycle to be recycled. It is so important to set up recycling programs at all the festivals we attend. If cigarette butts are ending up in the landfill then they are still contaminating the environment. Although it’s better that they all be in one place our goal is to eliminate the impact that cigarette butts have on our environment so recycling the butts is mandatory in our minds.

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If you could deliver one message to all the smokers out there what would it be?

Hey exile… You should probably stop smoking cause you’re good people, we need more people like you, not less of you. You need to live a long time and help make this world a better place for future generations, but if you’re going to smoke please be a responsible smoker. Respect. Next time you smoke, do it slowly, do it consciously, ask yourself how you feel while you are doing it physically and mentally, pay attention to how it really tastes and smells, and then ask yourself why you do it. If smoking has become a habit for you, try to slow down and pay attention to the reasons why you reach for your pack and your lighter – investigating our impulsive habits will uncover much truth within us and help us to lead lives which are happier and healthier. We encourage all smokers and non-smokers alike to take time to think about how their actions affect their environment, not just our natural environment but our social environment as well.

Whether or not we realize it, our actions influence the choices of the people around us. People will see someone throw a butt or a piece of garbage on the ground and think to themselves, “well if they are doing it I might as well too, someone has to clean it all up anyway.” But if people see their peers making the effort to be respectful and pull out a Pocket Ashtray or find a garbage / recycling can, it spreads like wildfire, it helps spread a certain mind frame that is positive and action based, and in most cases other peeps will step it up too. It feels good to do good… Ghandi said it best “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

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Kind of a loaded question, but what are your thoughts on the effects cigarettes have on climate change?

The coolest part about this whole initiative is how people start to think about their footprint. They start thinking about how even a small piece of garbage can be harmful to our water, soil, wildlife, and save tons of time and money. Quitting smoking and littering butts will not halt the trajectory of climate change; but it will help shift people’s perspective to a way of thinking that accompanies more responsible, respectful and conscious behavior, which is exactly what we need. The reason we are so passionate about distributing Pocket Ashtrays is not merely to curb smoking-related litter, recycle butts, and make money for charity,  but to empower people to act more consciously, to connect with the impact their habits have on the world and to have that awareness transfer over into other areas of their lives. We’ve seen a domino effect happen with people who use our product, they start being more aware of litter and pollution in general. The Pocket Ashtray plants a seed and reminds you that your actions have repercussions and because it’s used several times a day, that seed gets watered and begins to take root in people’s minds, influencing the way they live their lives. Which also makes it a perfect tool for marketing and a great way to engage the public.  

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According to the American Burn Association, about 900 people in the United States die each year in fires started by cigarettes and about 2,500 are injured. About 100 of the fire deaths each year are children and nonsmokers. Nationally, annual human and property costs of fires caused by careless smoking total about $6 billion. In 1997 there were more than 130,000 cigarette related fires.

These are some INSANE stats! Something that could be easily mitigated with the help of The Pocket Ashtray. How can people help spread the word about The Pocket Ashtray? Where can this wonderful item be purchased?

Yea the numbers are mind blowing when you really start looking at it. People can dig into our website www.braingarden.ca. There they can purchase boxes of 10 Pocket Ashtrays or they can view a map of the world which will show them where the closest distributor is so they can buy them locally (which is also more affordable because shipping is a bitch). On our site they can also order their own custom version, register to volunteer with our educational outreach teams around the world (we’ll train them and hook them up with free tickets to attend different events and handout Pocket Ashtrays), check out our photo galleries and more. From there they can hit up our social media pages and show their support by giving us some “likes” and “shares” etc.

People can contact me directly via email, FB, Twitter, or Instagram too … or hell, if people want to really get involved and become part of our team they can call or text me at 250 938 4202. Many people don’t want to put their numbers out there and don’t want to really interact with people, but as you can tell I’m not scared of all that antisocial shit, I love talking to people on the phone! Anyone can call me.


Check out The Pocket Ashtray on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

1 Comment on Stick That Butt In Your Pocket! An Interview With The Pocket Ashtray’s Jack Elliman

  1. The Pocket Ashtray loves Betty and Kora! 😉

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