Tag: plastic

Skip the Straw

The production of plastic was first viewed as a miracle, the birth of a surprisingly durable material. But used as a disposable material, that durability is part of its downfall. Plastic degrades very slowly, and it often ends up in the environment and in the food chain. In 1950, the global market generated 1.7 million tons of plastic. This amount has been steadily rising, reaching 300 million tons in 2013. A tremendous amount of this plastic is disposable and completely avoidable.

The fourth Friday of every February is Skip the Straw Day. This day originated in Michigan, proposed by Whitehall Middle School students who were concerned about the impact of the straws on the environment.

The Great Lakes are a significant area of concern for plastic waste, and plastic straws are among the top ten most frequently collected items during Great Lakes beach cleanups. One sweep of a fairly well maintained Great Lakes beach resulted in 414 straws in just a couple of hours. In 2016, 29,500 straws were recorded as part of cleanups.

What you can do:

  • Skip the Straw. Often, a drink is served at a restaurant with a straw (or sometimes two) simply for decoration. When ordering a drink, you can ask for no straw.
  • Use a reusable straw. Some straws are made of reusable materials such as glass or steel. If a straw is needed or desired, opt for one of these instead.
  • Make an impact. If you are serving a drink, ask if a straw is preferred. Encourage businesses to switch to compostable straws or to go strawless entirely.

Americans use 500 million straws every day. This is entirely avoidable. It is time to move away from these single-use plastics that end up in our Great Lakes.

Considering Knowledge of the Great Lakes and Plastic Bottles

Raised on Schoolhouse Rock!, I learned from a very young age that “knowledge is power.” While at first just a witticism I repeated in the show’s quirky inflection, the saying soon became real. This was one of the first bits of power I acquired, and I ran with it.

I learned to read at a young age, and I soaked up anecdotes and information as best I could. Though nowadays I enjoy spending my naptimes actually napping, I spent them as a youth reading rather than snoozing, and I quickly gained the wisdom of the Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown. I memorized my favorite poems, by the great Shel Silverstein.

When I did not become the most powerful of all from this process, I realized that there are other forms of power as well. Unfortunately, not all of these other forms of power are as gentle or as honest as knowledge. Nonetheless, I always found the power of knowledge to be a worthy adversary, the one that wins out in the end, and I have stuck with it.

As an individual, the greatest way to impact the world I have found is through spreading that knowledge. It is the power that expands and grows as it is shared.

In my everyday life, I learn what I can. What is happening to the waters in our Great Lakes? Who is responsible for the decisions that impact the Lakes? Even simply: where does my drinking water come from? I do my best to distribute this power to friends, family, and even strangers. Though I do run into opposition, this is often excellent for the sake of knowledge. A debate often only leads to more knowledge gained on both ends.

If I see a friend of mine planning to purchase a plastic bottle full of water to accompany his sandwich for lunch, I will interrupt to offer my knowledge as well as several alternative solutions. Perhaps he could sip from the drinking fountain in plain sight. Or he could go grab the reusable water bottle in his nearby car. Or he could ask for tap water in a glass instead of bottled water.

These alternatives not only support the wallet, they support the health of the Great Lakes, and the right for safe, clean, and accessible water for everyone. Water is public. Water is a human right, and we should not be paying to allow a private company to profit from our water.

Nayt Boyt

We must share this knowledge, that the Great Lakes and their waters must be protected for our uses. That the ancient but relevant Public Trust Doctrine reinforces the fact that our leaders must protect those waters for our uses. We must first acknowledge any threats to these waters, and then eliminate them, so that this treasure will be here for our use and enjoyment, for our livelihood.

I expand my power of knowledge to you today, and by extension, to the people you interact with. The next time you plan to grab a bottle of water, or see another who does, consider the alternatives. Make sure the actions in your life support a thriving future for the Great Lakes, and for all of us.