Sometimes the connection between the plastic straw in your drink and harm being done to sea turtles is most easily understood by the youngest generation. Janice Bailey, a ten-year-old from Alabama, has a very simple, but vital, goal – to save turtles. And to make this happen, she has started a campaign that led to some very important changes at a few local restaurants.
Since plastic straws are a significant part of our plastic waste problem, Janice has focused on these little convenient items as her first target. “If you really look at it, there isn’t that big of a need. We’ve become a very convenience-oriented society,” Christie Emery, Bailey’s grandmother, told The Dothan Eagle. “Everything’s convenience, and we’re becoming convenient to our detriment honestly. It’s not a big leap to put down a straw.”
The young activist recalls a time when, upon buying food in such places as McDonald’s, plastic straws were optional and could be taken by the clients as they wished. Now, restaurants and eateries give straws away together with the orders automatically, which creates a huge amount of waste, as even those of us who do not want to use the straws are presented with the ubiquitous item.
Janice set out to do something to protect the species when she saw a photo of a sea turtle with a straw painfully stuck in its nose.Her grandmother knew some people who owned businesses, so they started with the simple challenge of helping them reduce their use of plastic straws. They prepared a short video promoting the initiative and reached out to six local businesses.
Janice’s initiative was joined by Cactus Flower, Zack’s Family Restaurant, and the FunZone in Dothan, and The Daily Grind in Cowarts. If you want to get a straw together with your drink at those places, you will have to request one. The other restaurant, Red Elephant, according to the company policy, uses biodegradable straws that decompose almost three-quarters of the way in seven years.
The project might not have been a large-scale undertaking, but it brought important results – and all kinds of positive changes are very much needed considering the sheer scale of our plastic waste problem. “Who knows where this will go? It may go nowhere. It may have just affected some change in four or five businesses,” Emery said. “Even if we just hit the four businesses that we did, it affected change there, and that’s just within a week’s period.”
Every day, Americans use 500 million straws. Many of those end up in the oceans, threatening and injuring marine wildlife. Recently, more and more businesses in the food industry are becoming aware of this problem and taking steps towards switching to environmentally friendly alternatives or giving up straws altogether for the planet.
We don’t have to wait for companies and businesses to ditch plastic though, we can all start making a difference today! You can take a page from Janice and ask your local shops to start a request-only straw policy or carry your own straw wherever you go.
For more ideas on how you can reduce plastic waste, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign!
Image source: Leah Kelley/Pexels