It’s not about the straws

One of the topics dominating headlines this year, both within environmental circles and mainstream media, has been the campaign to ban single-use items, in particular plastic straws. It didn’t take long for the pushback to begin, from those with a valid need to use a straw (although this article highlights a number of alternatives) to the other end of the spectrum, those who feel that not providing a plastic straw is like taking away a God-given right.

Somewhere in the middle are those who complain that straws are, pardon the pun, just a drop in the ocean. Why focus on such an insignificant piece of plastic when there are much bigger fish to fry when it comes to plastic pollution?

Yes, the problem of plastic waste is so much bigger than a straw, even if the UK alone produces nearly 8.5 billion every year. Because here’s the reality behind the battle to ditch the straw: it’s about encouraging people to reassess their relationship to plastic, single-use items, and waste in general.

The same thing was done with animal welfare. Rather than trying to tackle the entirety of factory farming, campaigners focused on one issue—battery hens. Encouraging people to care about chickens who didn’t have room to turn around or carry out natural behaviour helped raise awareness of the problem and drive the switch to free-range eggs (in the UK at least).

Activists recognised that one small change allows you to begin to alter people’s value and belief systems. Once people take a stand, however small, and self identify as the type of person who cares about animal welfare/reducing plastic, then it is much easier for them to take the next step and make a larger commitment.

After all, you know what they say about straws and camels, right? We don’t know where the tipping point is when it comes to the health of our planet—doesn’t it make sense to do whatever is in our power to make sure that we keep things in balance? Whether that means going without straws, refilling water bottles, or reducing our “wasteline” in other ways, these small changes are our commitment to future generations that we cared enough to change our disposable mindset and leave the Earth better than we found it.

I’ll drink to that.

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