SF Grades of Green Team Meets with Politicians
The City of San Francisco recently introduced legislation to ban straws within the city. Although introduced, the bill is still under a 30 day review for public commentary. To support the legislation and to commemorate World Environment Day, the Grades of Green Team at Presidio Hill School met with Standing Mayor Mark Farrell and Supervisor Katy Tang, who co-wrote the legislation, regarding the bill. Their team had much to discuss with the Standing Mayor and Supervisor- notably, their disdain for single-use plastic utensils. Luckily, both Standing Mayor and Supervisor agreed with the students and supported their fierce passion in engaging the community in education about straws.
Why the hate on straws?
Straws and other single-use plastics have made headlines in recent years due to their harmful effects on animals both near and far. These animals are vital to maintaining healthy ecosystems which in turn maintains healthy beaches, food sources, and economies. The Grades of Green Team at Presidio Hill School learned about the unnecessary waste and damage created by this form of pollution and took action to reduce the effects of straws. The students signed petitions to share with politicians, set up meetings with the City on environmentally focused days, and created posters and flyers to educate the public.
Quotes from Team Members
Pedestrians passing by praised the students for fighting for what they believed in at a young age. The student activists shared their thoughts on the experience and had a blast discussing plastic bans with City Council members.
“We went to City Hall because we wanted to outlaw straws because they get stuck in animals’ body parts and then they can die. When humans eat animals, we get the straws in our bodies, too.”
“I really liked doing our rally around the block because it was fun to go around and show people what we wanted to say.”
“It was fun and I was nervous because I’d never done it before. Now I feel happy and proud that I spoke to a politician.”
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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.