Alrighty, folks. So, this Sunday is Earth Day. Remember in kindergarten/grade school, when we'd all go out and plant a tree or pick up trash? Think, when was the last time you consciously did something positive for Mother Earth?
The main purpose of Earth Day is uniting individuals of every culture, from all walks of life, in the single purpose of caring for the Earth. The original group challenge I had for April is a bit... lengthy, so we'll give it a pass, for now. Instead, let's focus on individual impact for the remainder of the month.
We all know recycling is good for the environment. We've been taught things such as "littering is bad, pick paper instead of plastic at the grocery store, or better yet, bring your own reusable bag". But what about the less obvious things? Buying the 10lb bag of rice at the grocery store instead of two 5lb bags, printing double-sided black and white at the office instead of single page and in color, or just not printing, at all? Using a reusable sandwich container instead of a disposable plastic baggy for your daily lunch, or buying bulk containers of snacks and divvying it up into smaller portions, at home?
In a day where dining out and drive through caffeinated drinks are queen, how about ordering your drink with no straw?
We all hear of the damage plastic is doing to the environment. With 8 million tons of the stuff entering our oceans every year, environmental consciousness is becoming more and more of a necessity, and not just the perceived "luxury" or "hippie" option.
Single-use plastic straws are amongst the worse offenders. Non-biodegradable and non-recyclable (generically speaking. Most plastic straws are made of plastic #5. It's technically recyclable, but very few recycling centers actually take it), the remnants of your afternoon frozen pick-me-up will be around for hundreds of thousands of years to come. According to a paper written by The World Economic Forum, the amount of seaborn plastic trash will outweigh the amount of fish in our oceans by as early as 2050. As outlandish as this may seem, it becomes more believable when, according to the National Park Service, Americans alone consume 500 million plastic straws a day. That's enough to wrap around the Earth not once, not twice, but two and a half times daily.
Now, if you're like me, your mind is immediately jumping to your favorite dimly-lit Chinese buffet and the plastic Pepsi cups they serve your beverage of choice in. You're probably thinking "Sure! I can skip the straw at Starbucks, but what about those germ-infested cups?" When it comes to dining out, straws serve the sole purpose of easing the American mind of the transmission of germs. One study completed by the Ocean Recovery Alliance, marked an uptick in the global usage of straws after the 2003 outbreak of SARS, a respiratory illness that infected 8,098 individuals throughout the U.S., Europe, and China. My response? Times have changed, laws have changed, and sanitation practices have changed. Is every corner restaurant perfect? Nope. But, if it is questionable to you, raise the questions to the restaurant itself. If you have to use a straw to dine there, should you really be using their utensils? Plates? Should you really be eating their food? All of these items (cups, plates, forks, knives) are washed in the same industrial dishwasher with a steam-sanitation cycle at the end. If you aren't willing to drink from the cup, you should be second-guessing everything else about that establishment, as well. You feel solid eating their chow mein? Then drinking from the cup is 100% a mental game.
I'm sure you've seen the video of the adorable Costa Rican sea turtle that went viral in 2015--you know, the one where it got the plastic straw stuck in it's nose? If you haven't, here's the video. It's 8 minutes long, and while it starts out with the little fella sneezing up a storm, I promise after you watch it, you'll rethink using another straw. Yes, it made me squeamish, but I highly encourage you to watch the entirety of the video.
Spoiler Alert: It's a full-sized straw.
Eliminating straws is one of the smallest, easiest thing we can do to help rid the oceans of harmful pollution. While this post did take a more serious turn at the turtle, this is legitimately a serious situation. With the exception of those who have medical ailments, straws are absolutely a non-necessity.
So, here's my challenge for you:
For the remainder of April, go straw free.
See just how many straws you inadvertently use in 10 days. You'll be surprised--I know I was.
And here's a little something-something to make it even more fun. Every time you order a drink and request #NoStraw, post it to insta or facebook and tag @turningstrawberry. Be sure you're subscribed to the blog and on May 1st, one lucky winner will be selected to not only guest post about their experience, but will be the winner of a reusable straw give-away!
Yes, you heard right. All you have to do to be entered in the giveaway is be subscribed, and take part in the challenge!
There are many individual benefits to using reusable straws (think, no BPA!), but you're also supporting a greener Earth.
So thank you, in advance, and good luck!