Monday, January 22, 2018

Make Your Last Straw the Last Straw

November 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Have you ever felt as if you had just reached your last straw? If you are passionate about clean waters, it’s actually a good thing to reach your last straw — join the movement!

jackie-nunez-last-straw-head-shotJackie Nunez is an all-around water-lover. She’s a sailor, paddler, and Blue Mind advocate for cleaner waters. In 2011, she founded The Last Plastic Straw, a group whose mission is to eliminate single-use plastic for the benefit of our environment, our oceans, and our health.

During some coastal adventures in the Caribbean, Nunez witnessed quantities of plastic garbage, especially plastic straws, over the beaches. Returning home, she ordered a glass of water at a local beach bar. As at many other places, the water was served to her sporting a plastic straw! She wondered, how and when had it become a thing that every time we consume a liquid in public it must have a piece of single-use plastic garbage in it?

Nunez continued to ponder. When did we become so complacent about trash invariably making its way to our waterways and beaches? It was the firsttime she truly considered the absurdity of the concept. (What about you? Have you ever thought about it?)

logoShe began educating herself about the issues presented by single-use plastic and has worked ever since at getting the message out about rethinking our plastic obsession. Nunez was inspired by the works of such environmental advocates as Captain Charles Moore, Wallace J. Nichols, Plastic Pollution Coalition, 5 Gyres, Beth Terry, Stiv Wilson, Sylvia Earl, and Abby Barrows. She was also enthused by Rebecca Ruiz-Prince, the founder of an Australian organization called Plastic Free July, who travelled the world and learned from groups and individuals what they had the most difficulty giving up.

Learning from others what was working and doable, Nunez saw how easy it is to implement little changes that make a huge daily impact (see links below). She discovered that every year, plastic straws are in the top 10 list of litter items cleaned off beaches during International Beach Cleanup Day in September. In fact, we use so many plastic straws that we could fill Yankee Stadium nine times every year with them!

Drinking straws in multiple colors, isolated on white.

Straws and other single-use plastics are expensive: businesses need to buy, distribute, and recollect them, and communities must cart them away. Once these unwanted plastics make their way to the waste stream, they never truly degrade — they break into tiny pieces that travel across watersheds and often into our oceans. There, resembling plankton, the pieces are likely to be ingested by wildlife (some make their way into the seafood we eat).

The absurdity of everyone needing single-use plastics for delivering drinks to our mouths reached a tipping point last year when a video of researchers removing a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s nose went viral. Once so many people had viewed and empathized with the creature’s struggle, towns, businesses, schools, and individuals took the message to skip using single-use plastics to heart and to the streets.

The message reached filmmaker Linda Booker. Her successful Kickstarter campaign funded work on a short documentary narrated by Ed Begley Jr. It’s about the sea of change that community activists from all walks of life, in locations everywhere, can bring about — one straw at a time.

jackie-nunez-last-strawAs a result of her continuing and tireless work, Nunez was named Volunteer of the Year by Save Our Shores. The Plastic Pollution Coalition has picked up her message-turned-campaign-turned-movement, encouraging people to take a pledge to avoid single-use plastics. Simple behavior changes, especially for activities such as consuming beverage, are easy to grasp and do, and have a major impact on our marine environment and our coastal economy.

It’s not hard to get in the habit of saying, “No straw, please,” every time you order a beverage. Boaters, consider how easy it is to pack a few more things in our boat bags, such as stainless steel pint glasses or reusable water bottles. Start small and don’t give up! These steps and others outlined in the sites below make a difference towards keeping our beaches and waters plastic free. In addition, if you notice that a fantastic seaside restaurant doesn’t automatically stuff a straw in your drink, or your cousin owns an upscale harborside bar that steers clear of plastic cups and straws, please add them to the interactive participating businesses map on the Last Plastic Straw website. This way, boaters and other water lovers will support them, too.


Links of interest:

Link to Huffington Post blog post called “Plastic Needs a Time Out” by Wallace J. Nichols:

By Kimberly Williams


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