I am Johanna, a 13 year old student at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, California. I have a passion for the environment, and for working to keep it healthy. In addition to being a part of the Grades of Green Youth Corps Eco-Leadership program, some of my spare time goes to working with Heal the Bay to fulfill this interest. I have helped volunteer at multiple beach cleanups, and I always notice that there is an incredible amount plastics, which contains an awful lot of straws. “In the past 15 years, Heal the Bay volunteers have removed nearly 100,000 plastic straws and stirrers from LA County’s beaches and watersheds” (Heal the Bay’s Marine Debris Database). And that’s only found on the sand. Many more straws and other plastics end up in the ocean. Many animals which live in the ocean mistake pieces of plastic for food. Plastic drinking straws can also get stuck in sea animals nostrils, which could cause the animal to not breathe well. Using straws has become an instinct when we go out to eat. We are automatically given a straw, and even though we are perfectly capable of sipping from a glass, it is natural to use a straw when we have the option. If customers and even employees really knew what simply using a straw could do, the decision to decline using a straw would start to become natural. After all, it is what we do at home! “Plastic straws and stirrers are the Number 7 most common item found on beaches worldwide on International Coastal Cleanup Day…” (Planet Experts: Open Letter to Starbucks). Who made straws number 7? We did. Who can change that? With the help of merchants we change change our mentality towards seeing straws as plastic pollution. Plastic Pollution Coalition recommends customers only be given straws by request, and further, the straws should be reusable such as stainless steel, or easily biodegradable such
as paper based. The Last Plastic Straw states, “500 million straws are used and discarded every day in the United States alone. That’s 175 billion a year filtering into landfills (environment) and littering our waterways and oceans”. When we look at it this way it seems that we really have to try to skip the straw, or use compostable or reusable straws when we are out to eat.

Interested in taking the pledge to skip the straw? Click here to learn more about Heal the Bay’s Strawless Summer Campaign.

Want to become an eco-leader like Johanna? Click here to learn about Grades of Green’s Youth Corps Eco-Leadership Program!

Want to help protect California’s coast? Click here to learn how you can join Grades of Green and Heal the Bay at Coastal Cleanup Day 2017.