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National Skip the Straw Day

The Coral Keepers, a group of nine eighth grade students at Whitehall Middle School in Whitehall, Michigan, founded National Skip the Straw Day with their advisor, Susan Tate, in 2017, "to encourage Americans to give up the straw habit and help spread awareness about the damage caused by disposable plastics." National Skip the Straw Day encourages people to switch to renewable straws or to forgo straws altogether when drinking on the day—or on any day.

The students created the day as part of the Lexus Eco Challenge, a national STEM competition where students between 6th and 12th grade create a project to address and overcome an environmental issue their community faces. There are three challenges in the competition, and winners of the first two challenges are allowed to compete in the final challenge. The Coral Keepers were inspired to focus their final challenge on straws after watching a video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose. They created Skip the Straw Day and were awarded the grand prize, receiving $30,000. On the first National Skip the Straw Day, the Coral Keepers sold reusable straws at their school, called for paper straws to replace plastic ones in their cafeteria, and organized a litter cleanup. Around the world, millions of people saw the hashtag #NationalSkipTheStrawDay for the first time.

At the time of the holiday's creation, 500 million straws were being used in the United States every day, even though the use of a straw is not necessary to drink beverages in most instances, and there are numerous reasons why straws should be avoided. There are five areas in the ocean called gyres that are created by vortexes that come from ocean currents. Garbage—including plastics like plastic straws—is trapped in them. One reason so many plastic straws end up there is that they are hard to recycle on account of their structure.

The inability of straws to be recycled is problematic because plastic straws have a negative impact on marine life. The straws may accidentally be eaten, or an animal may get wrapped up in one and have its mobility impeded. Plastics aren't biodegradable, but break down into microscopic pieces that produce bisphenol A (BPA), which interferes with the reproductive systems of marine life. Broken-down plastics also produce styrene monomer, a suspected carcinogen. These are a few reasons why skipping straws and participating in National Skip the Straw Day is worthwhile.

How to Observe National Skip the Straw Day

Some ways to take part in the day include:

  • Skip the straw! Drink straight from the cup today or for all days to come.
  • Pick up some bamboo straws, which are renewable, reusable, and biodegradable. You could also try paper straws. While they do get thrown away, they are biodegradable and come from a renewable resource. Glass and stainless steel straws also are reusable and long-lasting, and could also be used today.
  • Make a pledge to request drinks without straws when buying drinks at restaurants.
  • Cease from using all single-use plastics, like bags or bottles, or quit using all plastics, today or from now on.
  • Volunteer to clean up a beach or park. Count how many straws you find when cleaning.
  • If you are a teacher, have your students take part in the Lexus Eco Challenge.
  • Support other organizations and initiatives working to combat plastic straw use, such as Straw Wars, Straws Suck, One Less Straw, The Lonely Whale Foundation, Straw Free, Be Straw Free, and The Last Plastic Straw.
  • Watch Straws, a documentary by Linda Booker.
  • Check for public events being held for National Skip the Straw Day. For example, the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island has hosted events for it.
  • Share how you celebrate along with ideas you have for less straw use on social media. Use the hashtag #SkipTheStrawDay or #NationalSkipTheStrawDay with your posts.

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