There has been a huge debate recently about plastic straws. A few US cities have vowed to ban them, a few restaurants have promised to stop using them completely… and I have gone on a personal little mission myself. But, as it turns out, the issue isn’t 100% black and white.
About a year ago, I saw a video whilst scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed that really struck me. It had to do with plastic straws. Now, I’m not a die hard environmentalist. I care about the environment and I do my part. I recycle, I make wise environmental choices, it’s just not constantly at the forefront of my mind, I’ll admit.
The video I saw was of rescuers removing a plastic straw from the nose of a giant sea turtle. This poor, sweet turtle was obviously miserable. She was thrashing around, a whole bunch of people had to hold her down… I thought about trying to find the video and link it here for you to view, but changed my mind- it is rough. If you want to see it, I invite you to perform a google search. It broke my heart.
Ever since seeing that video, I have tried to make the conscious decision to not use plastic straws in restaurants. Occasionally I won’t be paying attention and I’ll unwrap one without thinking, but that has been about 5 times in the past year. It is so hard to change that habit. It sounds silly, but it is second nature to just accept the straw you’re handed and unwrap it. Especially when you go through a drive through window for fast food.
However, there is another part of this story that hasn’t been discussed. Plastic straws are hugely beneficial to members of the disability community. Single use straws, bendy straws, etc., make it easy for people with disabilities to consume food and beverages in restaurants!
While being environmentally conscious is crazy important, we can’t forget that people matter, too.
Here are some ways I’ve come up with for you to start figuring out how you feel about this situation and how to start conversations.
I don’t think being mean or negative will change or limit the use of plastic straws. It isn’t your server’s choice or even the restaurant manager’s choice. You can just choose not to use the straw or simply and kindly say, “I don’t need a straw, but thank you.” Easy peasy! No negativity, no lecture on WHY you don’t need a straw… if they ask me about my decision I’ll explain the video I saw, but I’ll also explain that I don’t believe they should be banned – just limited.
Another simple way to avoid the use of a plastic straw is to carry your own reusable one! I have a bunch of dishwasher safe straws that come with those reusable, dishwasher safe cups and I’ll just take one of the straws with me in the car! That way, if I know I won’t have time for a proper dinner and I’ll have to stop through fast food, I can just tell them I won’t need a straw!
This is just one girl’s opinion and how I’ve made one small change to hopefully make the tiniest, most minute difference for our oceans. I am not perfect. Just the other day I got a shake from Steak’n’Shake and the straw was already in the cup… but I’m trying.
And honestly, trying is better than ignoring the problem! We can be the change, but we also have to keep in mind the members of our community who have needs which differ from our own.