Wednesday, August 3, 2011


A year ago, I wrote a blog article that I posted on my popular blog, "Writing for Survival," bemoaning the evils of the plastic straw. In particular, I took issue with how plastic drinking straws--and other one-use, non-biodegradable plastic products such as plastic utensils and plastic bags--are toxic, wasteful, and harmful to the environment and wildlife. Wildlife choke on them, they leech chemicals into our ground and water, add excess waste to our already-bloated landfills and the Pacific Garbage Patch, and are a byproduct of the oil industry.

Since writing that article, I have stayed true to my commitment and have tried to abstain from the use of these products whenever possible. However, this is not enough. Personal choices, though important, on an individual level cannot combat the ecological calamity we are creating. And, in order for corporations and governments to change, demands needs to come, overwhelming at the grassroots level. And so, I am now taking this to the community level. This past year, I persuaded my supervisor at an after-school program to allow me to phase out our use of plastic utensils in exchange of reusable silverware--not only sparing the landfill, but saving money over the long-term. More recently, a nine year-old from Burlington, Vermont named Milo Cress started, a website asking individuals to pledge to go without straws, as well as urging restaurants to change their policy on straws.

Consider this: Americans use 500 MILLION drinking plastic straws A DAY! That's HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS in a single YEAR! Likewise, a single consumer uses 500 plastic bags a year. These products have minimal potential for reusing and recycling.

So, here is what I am proposing. I intend to e-mail as many locally-owned restaurants and grocers as I can in Somerville and the surrounding areas, starting with those that have already exhibited environmental concern and taking steps toward  sustainability, and urge them to do the following:

-Adopt an "upon request" policy--that is, instead of automatically putting straws in people's beverages, making straws available only upon request. This alone would result in cutting down in countless amounts of waste. For that matter, urging restaurants to adopt a "request only" policy for water in general would not only cut down on plastic waste, but would conserve significant amounts of water.

-Switch from plastic drinking straws to either reusable straws made from durable, sustainable materials such as stainless steel, bamboo, and hard glass, and/or to use single-use straws made out of biodegradable material.

-Additionally, to adopt and apply the same measures--"upon request" and supplanting with reusable/sustainable alternatives--for other single-use plastic items, including plastic utensils, styrofoam, and plastic bags.

I am asking that those who read this and agree with me do the same when their schedule permits. On on a large level, I plan on formulating a petition, forging partnerships with local environmental groups and non-profits, and attending town hall meetings.

As I wrote in my post a year ago, this is one change that would be fairly simple to make!