How many times did Mom tell you to leave things better than you found them? It sounds easy enough, however, actually putting this into practice is a bit more challenging, especially when it comes to single use plastic and our abnormal dependence on it. Our planet doesn't need, nor can it support all of that unnecessary solid waste. Believe it or not, minor lifestyle changes and better choices made today - right now, in fact - WILL impact the planet tremendously and we will be leaving it in better shape than we found it.
Yes, let's DO talk about plastic straws!
If you've been out of the environmental news loop the past year or so, you may not have heard about the movement across North America to stop our excessive use of plastic straws. Most recently, Elizebeth Warren mentioned in a democratic debate that the conversation should not be about single use plastic straws (or lightbulbs or cheeseburgers), but about the amount of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere by fossil fuel companies and others contributing to climate change. Sure, this is a monster issue, but it is also an apples and oranges conversation. Solid waste and air quality issues are, and should remain, separate.
So back to single use plastics and what every one of us can do to help with this crisis. Reducing the total volume of all plastic entering our waterways, clogging our landfills and ending up in our oceans is huge, and focusing on something as easy as straws to remove from the waste stream is perfect. Although straws may not be the biggest plastic issue we face, it has breathed life back into the single use conversation (recall the numerous plastic bag bans and reusable water bottle movement) and people are really thinking about it again. While many have attacked this campaign stating that it doesn't make a huge difference in overall plastic waste that ends up in landfills or the ocean (it does, actually), or that it is a distraction welcomed by the fossil fuel industry, this movement goes beyond any of those opinions and even beyond the endangered sea turtles that need straws removed from their nostrils, and the beach clean-ups that include volunteers picking up trash by the tons, much of it in the form of straws, from of our favorite summer basking or fishing spots. What is truly amazing and different about the straw movement, is the unbelievable attention (and subsequent action) this issue has garnered from the masses. Now people are refusing straws at restaurants, restaurants are replacing plastic straws with paper ones or offering metal or glass straws and so on. States like California (always leading the charge) are only allowing straws to be given to patrons who request them. How would you like to be "that guy"? No thank you! Los Angeles is considering going a step further and banning straws altogether. This is newsworthy and is being covered regularly. SO, do you still think those little plastic tubes you get in every fast food cup or in your complimentary water at a restaurant, or in your coffee to just stir your cream and sugar one time don't make a difference? A simple change in our behavior has sparked a movement, and it is a movement; it's a "thing" and it's amazing. By now many of us have significantly reduced (or eliminated altogether) our use of plastic bags and water bottles, then along comes plastic straws. Just think, those tiny, seemingly inconsequential straws may be a springboard to even more conscientious plastic waste reduction because it is again making us consider the uselessness of single use plastic.