All this year, I’ve been conscientiously working to eliminate single-use plastic straws from my daily habits. This has changed how I order drinks and sip different beverages, and I’ve counted more than 100 straws that I’ve deliberately chosen not to use, therefore ensuring that there are at least 100 straws not going into landfills, waterways, and bird habitats because of my use.
It hasn’t been a perfect journey, and I’ve had a few straws of shame throughout the year. I’ve learned a lot about straws, how our habits influence straw use, and how straws are part of an unfortunate throw-away culture that is ingrained in those habits.
But I’m not counting my straws anymore, as I’m pleased that my habits are now different. It’s very easy and comfortable for me to say no to straws when ordering drinks, to express my preferences in polite but firm ways so I’m not given a straw. I’ve also developed new habits at home with reusable items, and its become second nature to avoid tossing straws in the trash. Whereas at the beginning of the year it was a new and novel situation to be without a straw, going straw-less is now the norm, and it is actually more awkward to take note and add up every straw I don’t use.
We don’t often count things that aren’t part of our regular patterns and daily lives. We may count things we do, because it is easy to see, touch, and tally physical actions and behaviors. But negative behaviors – the things we don’t do – are much harder to tally once we have new habits. It was easy to count how many straws I skipped early in the year, because each instance was new and unusual and easy to note. Now, because it is second nature to simply skip the straw, I don’t always realize or recognize “oh yeah, that’s another straw!” – now it’s simply my drink, it’s not my drink without a straw. Now it would be much more unusual and notable if there was a straw, because it would be different and noticeable.
I’m not finished with my dedication to stop using straws – it’s simply become normal, rather than anything unusual. I’m now living proof that yes, it is possible to discard the straw habit as easily as you may once have used straws without thinking. But once we start thinking of the consequences of our actions, of how cumulative even a small action can be, we can make changes, and those changes can make a difference.
I no longer know exactly how many straws are not in the trash, landfills, lagoon, beaches, oceans, ditches, rivers, or refuges because I never threw them out. But I know there will be many more added to that total I’m no longer keeping.