Plastic-Free July Eco-Challenge, Day 12: The Mentality of a Conservationist

A couple of months ago, I attended a talk by a photographer sponsored by the library for their Trudy Sunberg lecture series. I was excited to hear from this artist because he has traveled the world and filmed some incredible animals all over. But I was incredibly disappointed in the presentation and the message conveyed by the speaker.

Wanting to highlight his new project, where he finds wild places still untouched by humans, I understood why he didn’t want to discuss his previous projects (even if they were what had brought him fame). He was experimenting with new photography methods, and the photos were absolutely astounding. I would want to show them off, too.

What bothered me was during the question/answer session after his presentation, this presenter made a bold statement which rubbed me entirely the wrong way. He said “We can’t focus on the plastic straws. If everyone on earth did away with plastic straws, it wouldn’t make that much difference.”

I’m sure you can guess why that bothers me. Because I have a much different attitude and philosophy.

I will state that I agree with part of his statement. If everyone on earth did NOTHING else but get rid of plastic straws, it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. But it’s not about “just a straw”. It’s about the mentality and what the straw represents.

Seattle stepped up a few years ago and got rid of their plastic bags in grocery stores. But that was just the start of the revolution. They worked to eliminate plastic straws, replacing them with sturdy compostable straws. And there is discussion to tackle single use plastic utensils, water bottles, and take-out containers.

The straw represents something much bigger than a tiny piece of plastic. It’s about what we need versus what we are accustomed to having. When did it become “the way” humans drink everything, through a plastic tube?

There are many people who actually NEED a straw with their drink. Hospitals need straws. I have friends and family who have issues and a metal straw doesn’t cut it. But the rest of us? Really? Why do you NEED a straw?

And the movement to ban straws isn’t a movement to BAN STRAWS. It’s a movement to bring more awareness to our consumer actions. What you buy, what you eat, and the actions you take make a difference. The straw is just a beginning. A small step, which becomes a greater step, and soon, we are taking enormous strides toward making the planet a better place.

We aren’t working to take away anyone’s rights to use a straw. We are asking people to think about what they need, and how their actions can have an impact.

So, if everyone on earth got rid of plastic straws, think about the ripple effect it would have on everything else. It wouldn’t just be the straw. It’d be the bags, the containers, the plastic packaging, water bottles, and so much more.

If working to eliminate one small piece of plastic can change the world, what else can we do to save it? Walk instead of drive. Buy local produce from our community. Cut out conflict palm oil from our lives. Recycle. Reuse. Conserve energy. The list goes on and on.

Because we became aware of a plastic straw.

That’s powerful action, and I don’t think it should ever be diminished.

Which mentality do you have? Do you think it doesn’t matter what we do? Or do you believe our actions can change the world?

Be the change you wish to see in the world, and do your part. No matter how small it seems.

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