By now, many or most of you have seen the shocking viral video of a sea turtle with a plastic drinking straw stuck up its nose and the team of ocean researchers attempting to pull it out. I don’t normally like to begin posts with gruesome images, but in this case, I’m hoping this video will not simply horrify you but also fill your heart with compassion and spur you to action. It’s 8 minutes long, and if you have the patience to watch the entire thing, it’s worth it.
While it’s tempting to simply be angry about videos like this, please take a moment to also find gratitude for kind human beings like these researchers who spent time trying to bring relief to an animal’s suffering caused by human unconsciousness. And gratitude that this video has had over 6 million views to date and is showing the world why we need to reduce our dependence on disposable plastic.
What can we do? When it comes to eliminating plastic straws, here are a few tools for change.
Start Your Own No Plastic Straw Campaign
My friend and Burning Man campmate Karina O’Connor works for the EPA, and while her area of focus is on air quality rather than solid waste, plastic pollution is one of her personal areas of concern. As part of the EPA’s Environmental Leadership Project, she worked with two other team members to create The Last Straw Community Toolkit, which contains materials and sample signage for creating an effective straw-free campaign in your neighborhood. Here’s what Karina wrote me about the project:
Jason, as a surfer, initiated the idea of reducing plastic since he sees it on the beaches of LA. Rebecca and I both are working on reducing disposable plastics in our own families and we both have kids that occasionally use straws. In doing research on the issue, we were amazed at the number of straws in use (500 million straws per day) and the impacts of straws on beaches. Reduction of this by having restaurants in communities take on a Straws Upon Request policy seemed to be such as easy way to have a big impact.
We were surprised that more communities hadn’t taken on this issue, so decided to develop the community toolkit which brings together our lessons learned from others who have already started on this path with the techniques we’ve learned from our trainings in this program on promoting sustainable environmental change. While we were working on the toolkit, we saw the famous turtle video and developed a logo with a turtle on it to help remind us why this is important!
We really hope that the toolkit will be used by community groups to reduce plastic straw use and that success in these efforts will spur further efforts to reduce other kinds of disposable plastics!
The toolkit also contains links to many other straw-free campaigns and resources. Download it today.
Take the No Straw Please Pledge
The Plastic Pollution Coalition and The Last Plastic Straw have created a social media campaign, inspired by the turtle video, including new videos of people pledging to refuse plastic straws. Please help to spread the word through your social media channels.
Here’s a sample tweet:
Join Trevor to sign the pledge to Refuse Plastic Straws: No Straw Pledge #RefusePlasticStraws #p
And are some sample Facebook posts:
Trevor, “I want to talk to you; it’s really important: Plastic Straws Endanger Sea Turtles.’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfFV0gExc6w&feature=youtu.be Join the campaign. Sign the pledge at: No Straw Pledge #RefusePlasticStraws @plasticpollutes
“I want to help make this a better world and that involves not using plastic straws.” –Meirav, age 8. Share her video and take the pledge:https://www.facebook.com/PlasticPollution/videos/vb.173697869512/10153730862204513/?type=2&theater #RefusePlasticStraws
Explore and share the resources on The Last Plastic Straw Website.
Switch to Reusable Straws
While drinking straws may be unnecessary for many people, those of us with sensitive teeth prefer to drink cold beverages through a straw. Fortunately, there are reusable options like glass, stainless steel, bamboo, and hopefully soon, straws made of straw. Bringing your own reusable straw can be a good strategy to get restaurant servers to remember not to put a straw in your drink. “Look,” you can say. “I have my own.” Hopefully, the novelty of the reusable straw will jar them from their automatic habit of putting a straw in everyone’s drink.
Other helpful straw-related posts you might enjoy: