“I said no swizzle sticks!”, the strange woman yelled. This was the first time it had ever occurred to me that ditching straws was a thing people did. Six years ago I was a young bartender and didn’t think anything of her words. I simply threw her straw into the bin and moved on through the rest of my shift. I didn’t blink at the number of straws I used per week drinking my iced tea in the back.
These days, I’m not much of a soda drinker. I drink several cans of sparkling water per week, and until a month ago, each of those cans was accompanied by a straw. I’ve always preferred the texture of carbonated bubbles filtered through the small opening, am an admitted straw chewer, and one time someone told me straws keep the carbonation from decaying your teeth. I have hundreds of straws in my home, bendy straws, colorful straws, you name it.
My friend Ciji, the founder of RecycleMe Iowa, was in the passenger seat of my car. “Did you know there’s a whole movement of people trying to get rid of straws?”, she asked, in reference to the LaCroix I was sipping. I answered honestly and with enthusiasm and explained that it’s better for my teeth. She directed me to the RecycleMe Iowa Facebook page, where several articles about straw pollution and the effects on the environment, including marine life, had been posted. I’m a huge animal lover. One of those articles “A campaign to eliminate plastic straws is sucking in thousands of converts”, Washington Post, includes a (graphic) video of researchers removing a straw from a sea turtle’s nose.
Go watch the video. I’ll wait.
Yep. Changed my perspective too.
I watched it with the sound muted and was sobbing at my desk before it had even hit the halfway mark. I immediately logged onto my Amazon account and ordered 200 paper recyclable straws, knowing that I’m a creature of habit and it would take me awhile to fully convert. I didn’t want to contribute to this problem of single use plastic. All of the plastic straws I have been stocking in my home for years are now in a bag, and I will likely insist that they go with me when I die because I can’t live with the idea that they could end up hurting an innocent animal. I’m actually serious. I don’t know what to do with them. If you’re a local artist, let me know your thoughts. Let’s create some awareness art.
What’s the point of all this? It’s to make you aware, not to make you feel guilty if you’re a regular straw user. I had no idea the effect this convenience for me had on the world around me.
Ending straw pollution is my new champion cause, I want to see local bars and restaurants serving drinks without straws, at least plastic ones. Reusable or paper straws have less impact on the environment.
Ciji and I have been talking about starting a new campaign with RecycleMe Iowa: “Don’t Suck. Just Say No to Straws”. Our goal is to make Des Moines a plastic straw-free city in the coming year. Want to help us achieve this goal? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll reach out to you!
[Featured Image: By Horia Varlan from Bucharest, Romania – Many colored straws thrown on top of each other, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45899063]