Since beginning my quest to leave a better footprint on the planet, there have been more than a few moments where I have felt completely overwhelmed. Walking down the street and noticing for the first time just how much litter – recyclable and non-recyclable – was accumulating in gutters. Shopping in the supermarket, trying desperately to find unpackaged items and palm oil free ingredients, surrounded by hundreds of people piling their trollies high with the very items I was trying to avoid. Glancing in a coffee shop window to see people drinking from take away cups at the tables. In those moments I felt utter despair. What did it matter that I was buying loose carrots and asking for no straw in my drink? My actions seemed totally futile.
Thankfully I have some wonderful people in my life who share my passion for the planet and can lift me out of the lows they too are familiar with. That feeling of helplessness is one we all share from time to time. While I do truly believe in the power of individual actions and each person’s responsibility to live with respect for our environment, much of the onus of course should be on those with the most power. Businesses, big and small, need to step up. But they aren’t necessarily going to do this of their own accord. I started wondering what I could do about this. I’ve not got a background in environmentalism. I’m no expert. And I have a busy full time job. How could I make myself heard? And anyway, who would listen?
It was in one of ‘lows’ one morning, whilst contemplating the pointlessness of it all (I’m quite chirpy some of the time, honestly) that I decided to email a couple of local businesses to ask them to consider ditching the automatic insertion of a plastic straw into all drinks they serve. I usually do remember to ask for no straw but on the occasions I don’t I always feel so disappointed when one arrives. If you’ve read Lucy’s previous post about plastic straws, you’ll be aware of how ‘strawful’ they are. Recent estimates put worldwide plastic straw use at around 6 billion per day. Many of these will end up in the sea. Those that don’t will sit in landfill for hundreds of years. These things are made by drilling oil from the ground. They get used ONCE. You can see why I want things to change. Here’s what I said in my email…
Dear lovely ……… folk,
I hope you don’t mind me contacting you. I am a huge fan of ………. and visit very regularly.
I am writing regarding an issue which may seem insignificant, but is very close to my heart.
Recently, I ordered a gin and tonic. When it arrived, it had a plastic straw in it. Usually I remember to ask for no straw when ordering a drink but on this occasion I forgot. As I’m sure you are aware, single use plastic straws make up a huge percentage of worldwide plastic pollution. It makes me so sad because a straw is such an unnecessary item.
My request is this: would you consider only adding a straw to drinks if the customer asks for them? I know that a couple of places in Bristol are already doing this. By making people consciously choose to have a straw, they may be led to think about the impact of this choice.
I would be really interested to hear your thoughts.
Many thanks for taking the time to read this.
As you can see, I was not confrontational or preachy (I hope). The very next day I received an absolutely lovely email from my local pub saying that they were going to instigate my suggestion immediately! I cannot explain the elation I felt when I read that reply. I had made my voice heard and someone with more power than me had not only listened but had agreed with me! Incredible. I received two more positive responses and the feeling of satisfaction was the same each time.
Imagine if we all just sent three emails to local businesses about this? Or maybe bigger chains? The possibility for change is huge. Straws is a great issue to campaign about because there is no reason whatsoever for a physically capable adult to need to use one. And using fewer straws is in the financial interests of businesses too.
So next time you are feeling overwhelmed and crushed by the intolerable sensation of futility, grab the nearest electronic device and send an email. You never know who might listen to you.