Say No to Straws September

by - Thursday, September 01, 2016

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

This month on the blog, we are going to focus on bringing down the plastic straw. We certainly aren't alone in this mission, and for good reason. There are three plastic items that are especially pointless in our daily life, yet they are chief villains in polluting the oceans:

1. Plastic Shopping Bags
2. Plastic Water (and other drink) Bottles
3. Plastic Straws

Earlier this year, a study projected that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. The ocean water should be a habitat for sustainable food and biodiversity on this planet. Sadly, with these plastics taking over (a dump truck of plastic EVERY MINUTE), babies born this year won't see an adulthood where fish are safe to eat. This is horrifying and tragic; is this really the best we can do for the next generation? Is the convenience of these items worth it for our oceans to look like this:

plastic trash in the water
from the amazing Common Dreams
Don't let these daunting numbers scare you- we aren't helpless. Positive changes are happening So many groups and organizations are fighting to prevent this horrible prediction.Check out The Plastic Pollution Coalition who is fighting plastic pollution and their lobbyists on a global scale, looking into microbeads where they are still legal (and poisoning fish) and helping all these smaller groups connect.

Joining The Last Plastic Straw totally changed my perspective on my own impact using plastic straws, bottles, and bags. Join this group. It not only fights to minimize straws on a political and business level, but this California-based group really shows how one person can make a huge difference by changing their everyday choices. They challenge restaurants to:

- Only serve biodegradable straws
-Only serve straws when asked
- Stop serving straws all together

This doesn't seem like a lot to ask, but if they complete their goal of reaching restaurants all over the country, they could totally cut Big Plastic off at the knees and save literally millions of straws from the water EVERYDAY. They are making progress daily, but join up and you can help too!

Not everything is a huge undertaking- check out Activist Abby, who is organizing plastic clean ups around the Great Lakes. Read her story- even as a young teenage girl, she was attacked by the plastic lobby with the intent of preventing plastic bag bans. She fought back, got 173,000 signatures and won. As a teenager. Activists can only succeed with your help, so even if you can't get out there and clean up, locating amazing people like these and having their back can help change the world.

Want to sign against big plastic right now? Back up Californians trying to get the plastic bag ban though!

With all of this effort, things should be improving, right? Wrong. 

They are making progress, but they are fighting the rush of plastic's momentum. Big plastics lobby for the plastic bags. Restaurant continue to serve straws with every drink (as if grown adults couldn't possibly life their drink). And worst of all, we continue to consume as if we aren't part of the problem.

We are the biggest part of the problem, my dears. They couldn't get away with it if we weren't so attached to these easy plastics. If your children and grandchildren live in a world of all dirty water, it will be your fault. Not just your fault, but a shared fault. A debt we add to every time we choose these plastics.

Now, I know this is harsh, but it is true.

This blog intentionally tries to keep the "environmentalist" bar low. You don't have to buy all hemp clothes and turn off your electric to count as caring about the environment, but you do need to acknowledge your daily shopping, consuming, and tossing of waste do add up to a real effect on the environment. If we all push to make small changes, they will add up and we can change a lot of negative environmental momentum, minimize waste, and send the message to companies that it is worth their investment to do the right thing. None of us can save the world on our own, but if we all do a little, our stewardship will have incredible effects.

So I am not going to shame you, but if you care AT ALL about this Earth, then let's call this the bare minimum effort. We all can do the Bare Minimum with nearly no inconvenience or personal cost. These three items- bottles, bags, and straws, should be cut from your consumption diet.

Try cutting your straw use in half. Then cut that in half.

So why are straws so bad? Is this really worth the battle?

Oh, yes, they are truly awful.

First, in our individual lifetimes, we will make a larger volume of trash from our straws than we will from cars. So think about your car. Now fill it with straws. You will throw out more straws than that in the time you drive that car.

Second, straws are especially hard to clean up, because they are so small. You can read a lot about effort to clean the oceans, especially on the coasts which are starting to look like this:

plastic straws and trash on the beach
from triple

We need these efforts to clean the oceans to succeed for our children's future and health, so if straws make it much worse, we need to stop the incredible volume being poured into the oceans.

Third, straws are deadly to wildlife. Have you seen the turtle video? Tell me you can get through this thing and still drink from plastic straws.

Need more motivation? Join facebook groups like The Plastic Pollution Coalition and The Last Plastic Straw. Seeing how much some areas are realy facing down plastics and MAKING PROGRESS gets me excited to do more myself.

So what can we do?

ocean conservancy skip the straw
from the Ocean Conservancy
This month, I am on a mission, and I want you to join me. This is the plan.

1. When you are out to restaurants and order a drink, just ask "No straws please." I am taking the No Straw Challenge, and I am taking it seriously. Please click the link and join me.

Don't even let them leave them at the table, because servers and bussers will just toss them in paper wrappers. If you need a straw for something you drink, bring one with you.

2. Pick 5 restaurants you love but that use plastic straws, and tell them to stop- Write them a review on Yelp or a note on their facebook page, and ask them to stop serving drinks with plastic straws. You can encourage them to stock paper straws instead, but let them know you think this is a flaw in your business plan. I am going to write a restaurant a letter every day, but you do what works for you. No business will change an approach if they think it is working. Use these resources to show them it isn't.

You can do a little Everyday Activism. Nothing huge, not a massive time suck, but you will help save the water from these plastics.

Need some inspiration or guidance on how to approach it? Check out the Last Plastic Straws website and see how they approach these businesses! Help encourage a voluntary plastic straw ban!

If you want bonus points, talk to your friends about the state of straws or plastic bags in your area- lots of places (especially ones on the coast, that can see the effects of these "disposable" plastics) are taking serious stands against these plastics, and they are starting to be banned all over the world. Morocco just banned plastic bags, and they were the world's second largest users. This can happen for us, and if you team up with friends, you might be able to make it happen where you live.

Not too much, right? I have certainly sent us all on more complex and crazy missions before. Who is going to try to break their straw habit with me? Do it for the turtles and future sushi restaurants, for goodness sake!

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