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Single Use Plastic and How You Can Make a Difference

Plastic has become a dirty word, and rightly so. With David Attenborough’s Blue Planet bringing the plight of plastic pollution into the common household, we as a society are now rethinking the products that we purchase. The loved single-use plastic straw is one item under scrutiny.

Kids love straws. They bring a sense of wonderment and experimentation at the dinner table that you otherwise wouldn’t get away with. There is a slight cheekiness sipping through a straw whilst trying to avoid the last noisy slurp rather than politely drinking from a cup. There are also the mini science experiments – children bending straws to determine at what angle the liquid uptake would stop. And then there is the fun of trying to pick items up with a straw (no our children NEVER do this in public…)

But the thing with straws is, they are bad, really bad for the environment. It’s nothing new. We are now more aware of the impact of single-use plastic on our environment and wildlife. It’s not just adults that are taking notice either. My children were quite pleased when they learned that the UK government will ban the sale of single-use plastic straws in 2020.

In fact, we went to a restaurant a couple of weeks ago where my daughters ordered drinks. The drinks came with straws. They were colourful and fancy straws that would have normally brought oodles of excitement, but they didn’t on this occasion because they were made from single-use plastic. What were the first words that came out of my 8 year old? “Why are they using plastic straws and not paper straws? Plastic straws are so bad for the environment.” Then my 10 year old seconded that statement with a resounding, “What are they thinking?”

They are right, plastic straws rank #8 on the ocean trash list. In their Planet or Plastic series, the National Geographic reported that an estimated 4.4 billion straws are thrown away annually. Then there is a video that went viral of a tortoise that had a plastic straw stuck in its nostril. Link: (please be advised there is some swearing):

Children are tuned in about the state of our world Our children are becoming more involved and being more vocal about the environment they are inheriting. This year we’ve seen school children stage climate strikes, walking out on school with the hopes of placing pressure on the government to do more to stop climate change.

Although we as the adults and parents are making the rules and purchasing power, children are standing up and demanding more sustainable products. They really are full of honest-to-good richness, a richness that is often overlooked in our overly complicated world. They see the bad (plastics) and the good (biodegradable options). They aren’t confused by the greyness which can muddle and confuse decisions. Sometimes looking at things through black and white glasses helps to simplify things and make decisions so much more obvious.

Having a positive impact on our earth can seem overwhelming, especially if you believe that climate change is irreversible. That said, many feel that we still have time – 11 or 12 years to reverse the damage we’ve instilled on the earth. Changing from single-use plastic straws to paper straws is one way to lighten your footprint. How else? It can seem overwhelming, but change can occur, even if we all do a little bit every day.

There is a common element among successful leaders and trailblazers who achieve change. They identify a long-term objective. To achieve that objective, they identify daily or weekly goals. The goals don’t have to be huge, but they do need to line up with that long-term strategy. This is something we can all do and we can all start now by removing single-use plastics from our lives. Our actions and decisions today will shape our tomorrow.

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