Why does the world care so much about plastic straws?

By Jennie Piotrzkowski

In the past six months, it seems there is one thing that signals the mark of a bad person: Whether or not they use a plastic straw. If a plastic straw is found in your drink, one might hear “don’t you care about the turtles?” or “don’t you know that’s bad for the planet?”

Plastic straws only make up 4 percent of the entire pollution in the world’s oceans. Companies like Starbucks have tried to encourage their customers to not use them at all. This is evident in their ban against all straws. They redesigned the lids to not need a straw altogether.

If people are so inclined to stop using straws, why won’t they apply this simplicity in other aspects of their life? People are aware climate change is happening but many appear to only do something when it’s convenient for them.

In part, straws are a big part of our lives that people can make themselves feel good when not using them. It’s like it’s a way to give yourself a mental high five and say, “I didn’t use a straw today. Maybe I’m not a terrible person.”

It starts with being aware of how your action affects the planet. Pollution occurs on a daily basis, and it isn’t excluded to just the oceans. There is air pollution that releases carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. The surplus of these gases is what leads to our ozone layer depleting, and the rise in temperature on Earth. People haven’t stopped driving cars, working in factories or flying planes.

Many people might find themselves wondering if there is a bigger difference they can make. If you’re someone who gave up using straws, why not consider other ways you cannot only make a difference but also be the difference?

Did you know that you can save up to 200 gallons of water a month by turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth? If you scrub your hands with soap for 20 seconds and then turn on water, you could save six gallons of water a day.

The beginning may start with awareness, but we have surpassed the awareness stage. The term climate change was adjusted from global warming because it is active and happening as we speak.

It is a step in the right direction, but what is a single step when we, as humanity, need to leap?

I’m asking people to open their eyes to more ways they can make a bigger difference for the planet every day, beyond just ditching plastic straws. Why not pick up plastic on the beach every time you see it? Or organize beach clean ups with your friends? That first step only makes a difference if one continues on the path toward change.