I am having dinner with my best friend for the first time in months—it has become harder to go out by ourselves since both of us became mothers.
The waiter comes up to us and asks what we want to drink. A beer for my friend, sake and water for me.
“Please skip the straw,” I ask him.
He looks at me and asks, “Why? Why no straw? Because of the fish in the ocean?”
“In part,” I reply.
“To save the fish you are about to eat?” he continues.
We are at a sushi restaurant.
My friend bursts into laughter and I open my eyes as wide as I can. I choke a little and then continue to defend myself as graciously as I can. He caught me off guard.
“In part, since I don’t think I’m having any seagull or turtle tonight—and mostly because of plastic contamination,” I tell him.
We exchange a couple more arguments about it, but at the end of the conversation I feel like neither of them are convinced or concerned about the impact of a straw on the environment.
They make good points like how I drive a Jeep that pollutes the air. Or how I’m the second person in a year and a half, since the restaurant has been open, to ask to skip the straw; that regardless, my straw will be manufactured and used by others; that using a straw is hygienic.
The argument lasts five minutes until we changed the subject, and our waiter goes back to the other tables.
He did skip my straw.
But I could not let it go.
As I look around the full restaurant, everyone is having a glass of water with a straw. My heart sinks. No one cares. No one understands.
I might be far from being a perfect environmentalist, but I care a hell of a lot.
I do drive a big car because I travel with my husband, our son, and dog frequently. I live in a city where I do not have to drive that much, so when I’m at home I walk. It’s also the perfect car for a road trip and we love exploring. I keep it checked and tuned, but that’s not the point here. I am excusing myself for having a big car.
I not only skip the straw to save the Toro or the Yellowtail I will be eating at my sushi table (which might even come from a farm), but to save the big mammals of the ocean, the turtles, and birds.
I also stopped using the straw because plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose and because on many beaches around the world there are more straws than seashells.
We only use a plastic straw for a couple of minutes and then it becomes part of the mass of trash in the Atlantic Ocean.
If you are really using it as a hygiene tool, then you should know you are drinking leftover filth on your glass out of the straw. However, your glass probably went through a dishwasher so there really isn’t a hygiene issue to begin with.
I do not use plastic straws anymore because there are other options. You can use a bamboo straw (like I do), a stainless steel straw, a glass straw or even a BPA-free reusable plastic for the little kids (bamboo will be chewed on, trust me).
The year is about to end. A year in which powerful people have repeatedly denied climate change. A war on the environment is coming and if you have a speck of knowledge, a hint of information, then why are you waiting to start a change?
Even if my best friend and last night’s waiter do not think so, little changes matter, little changes work, little changes make great changes.
And changing one person at a time is the way we will all be able to keep our planet alive.
Author: Montse Leon
Image: Anh Phan/Unsplash
Apprentice editor: Felicity John Odell; Editor: Emily Bartran