Ever take the subway at rush-hour? In New York City where I live, rush-hour commuters regularly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their fellow travelers. They do it because they need to get where they’re going and they know the subway is the most efficient way to get there.
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Green consumers do not drink from disposable plastic bottles. They do not use styrofoam cups. They eschew foam packaging. They refuse disposable chopsticks. They certainly do not accept plastic bags at grocery stores. And if a group of London restaurants succeeds in what one local merchant called “a very ambitious project,” they will not drink from disposable plastic straws.
The restaurants’ Straw Wars campaign aims to reduce waste by pushing back on the use of cheap plastic drinking straws. “Don’t be a sucker,” the campaign admonishes. In the United Kingdom, the campaign’s website points out, 3.5 million people buy a McDonald’s drink with a straw in it every day. That is a lot of straws, which tend not to be recycled and instead make their way to the ocean with so much other single-use plastic. The campaign asks restaurant and bar owners to respond by handing out straws only when asked.
But as The Guardianwrote in its report on the Straw Wars campaign, “There are no figures for the proportion that plastic straws make up as a proportion of total plastic waste, though it is thought to be very small.”
In aggregate, the personal environmental choices that we all make do have an impact. But some have a bigger impact than others. On the scale of choices that make a difference, saying no to drinking straws ranks low. If restaurants and bars are going to join together to promote environmental awareness, I’m much more interested in the efforts they’re making to minimize the energy they use for transportation and their physical space than the tiny, tiny energy and waste savings they achieve by holding back some of the plastic straws they normally dispense.