If you are familiar with the “No Straw Movement,” you have probably seen the video where a poor sea turtle is getting a straw painstakingly pulled out of its nostril.
It is heartbreaking, eye opening and it made colorful metal straws popular. The “No Straw Movement” is what we need to save the environment, right? If we all do our part, the world can be saved, right? Well, yes and no.
The “No Straw Movement” has made it seem like the ocean is mainly affected by our uses, and that straws are a regular snack for sea turtles. However, there are many other wastes that end up in our oceans that do not get the same amount of attention.
A scientific study on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, (a giant mass of trash in the Pacific Ocean), found that 46% of the patch consisted of fishing nets. And on the International Coastal Cleanup Day of 2017, there were more cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic bottles and plastic bags than straws. Remember that video of the sea turtle? Well, the same YouTube channel has a similar video of a sea turtle stuck in a fishing net. So why such an intense focus on ditching the straws?
Short answer: it is easy. Vilifying straws is much easier for people than actually assessing the actual, pertinent problems affecting our oceans. You buy a metal straw off of Amazon, and pat yourself on the back for how environmentally conscious you are.
However, if there is going to be a real change to the state of our oceans, people must be aware of the impact corporations have on our environment.
After World War II, there was a major shift in how many companies packaged their goods. Until the 1950s most beverages were packaged in glass bottles that could be turned in, washed and reused.
But then major companies switched to cheaper disposables, which immediately doubled our use of bottles and cans. There was a major push back by people regarding the switch because of cows being harmed by the trash. However, in a giant marking campaign funded by over 20 companies (including Coca Cola and Dixie Cup), they blamed customers for being careless and coined the term “litterbug.”
This campaign, called “Keep America Beautiful,” pushed blame on the consumer, instead of the corporations that were making the extra trash to save money. Pushing blame onto the consumer prevented laws that could have held the corporations accountable, and as a result we still use disposables to this day.
So should you give up entirely and grab a handful of straws every time you go to Starbucks for some overpriced coffee? Of course not!
Individual contributions to the effort to stay green are still important. If everyone did their part, the amount of trash in the ocean would decrease. But people that care about the environment should be more aware of how their vote has power to save the environment.
Voting for candidates that care about the environment, protesting for stricter laws and letting your peers know is more difficult and time consuming, but it could be exactly what we need to save our earth. So next time you go online to buy that holographic metal straw, maybe open another tab and register to vote as well.