Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I have heard of few people in the world that have as much dedication and determination to live their core values as Beth Terry does. She is the "blogger of all things plastic" at Fake Plastic Fish and I am honored to have her as a guest blogger on our site. DL.


Do small changes, like switching to glass drinking straws, make a difference?

A while back, I was very happy to be the subject of an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about my blog, Fake Plastic Fish, and my project to eliminate as much new plastic from my life as possible. The author mentioned the fact that I had given up plastic drinking straws and now carry a GlassDharma drinking straw wherever I go.

This statement became the subject of much derision on the snarky web site, Fark.com, and helped me to really ask myself, "What impact do a few drinking straws have when the environmental problems in the world are so great?"

Surely, we can't restore the ecology of our planet, our home, if the only change we make in our lives is to change the method by which we suck up our milk shakes (or other beverages of choice.) And certainly, the types of liquids, as well as solids, we choose to consume, and thereby support, have a much greater impact (pesticides, chemical additives, hormones, food miles, etc.) than the delivery system from cup to mouth.

But as I argued in my post, Obama's F---ing Lightbulbs, drinking straws, like changing light bulbs, can be a gateway to bigger changes for those who have yet to analyze their consumption. And straws, unlike light bulbs, have the added benefit of being something we take out and use frequently, a regular reminder of the choices we've decided to make for the planet.

Moreover, for those of us who have already reduced our consumption considerably, a glass drinking straw provides one more way to combat the disposable mindset of our culture and to fight the plastic plague. And they are a conversation piece. Pull one out in any restaurant while refusing a plastic straw, and see what kind of interest is created. My glass straw has provided the doorway for several great conversations with waiters about environmental issues.

Of course, buying glass straws can also be just another symptom of over-consumption if they are purchased as just another fad and forgotten about. We certainly can't buy ourselves out of the mess we're in. Green purchases need to be mindful purchases. Buying a bunch of glass straws, using them for a few days, and then forgetting about them helps no one. (Except of course for David Leonhardt, a great guy who I'm happy to support. And I'm sure he doesn't want you to buy his straws and forget about them either!)

Switching from plastic to alternative materials like glass, stainless steel, wood, and natural fibers, is a step by step process. I've been trying for going on two years and am still not "there" yet. But I think the journey is worth it, if only for the peace I feel in the present moment. Have you started? How's it been for you?
Beth.