We owe our strawless celebrations on National Skip the Straw Day, the fourth Friday in February, falling on February 24 this year, to a group of young activists in Whitehall, Michigan. In light of the ongoing battle against global warming and plastic pollution, we’ll take the time this holiday to consider whether we really need that whimsical plastic tube in order to enjoy our favorite beverages. We can slurp more down by just going straight for the glass’s edge anyway!
History of National Skip the Straw Day
In 2017, a group of teenage activists called the Coral Keepers established National Skip the Straw Day to recur every fourth Friday in February. Amid frequent and intense conversations about the state of the planet and the potentially fatal effects of plastic waste for creatures in the world’s largest oceans, these high school students from Whitehall, Michigan decided to establish the day in order to educate others about the many biodegradable alternatives to these small but potent cylindrical sippers.
The straw as we know it today was patented by Marvin Stone in Washington D.C. in 1888. While sipping his afternoon mint julep through a grass straw, Stone became dissatisfied with the flavors of vegetation and whiskey mixing, so he decided to wrap a piece of manila paper into a tube for sipping his drink instead.
With the rise of plastic goods (and all other things quick, microwaveable, and processed) in the 1960s, straws graduated from the earth-friendly substance of paper to its far less amicable cousin, plastic. It takes one plastic straw approximately 200 years to decompose back into the earth, which means that every single straw since its invention is still floating around somewhere on the planet to this day.
The Coral Keepers have asked us all to ‘Tip the Glass’ rather than sip through a straw on this holiday, at the very least, and to consider doing away with the beverage accessories altogether, if possible. Not only do these straws give off toxic byproducts when exposed to heat, but they also pose a physical risk to marine life that might try to eat them or they might get stuck in the blowholes or air passages of fish.
National Skip the Straw Day timeline
The Friedman Flex-Straw Company is sold to Maryland Cup Corporation, which increases the production of plastic straws and spreads their presence across the U.S.
9-year-old boy Milo Cress starts a campaign called Be Straw Free to spread awareness about this significant source of plastic waste and to discontinue the automatic provision of a plastic straw with beverages in restaurants.
Marine biologist Christine Figgener records herself and her colleagues removing a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s bleeding nostril and the video goes viral on social media.
Michigan’s Coral Keepers establish the holiday to educate others about the pollution potential of plastic straws.
National Skip the Straw Day FAQs
Why do straws kill turtles?
The digestive tracts of turtles get blocked, resulting in starvation and eventual dying. Plastic expands, too, making turtles buoyant and easier preys for predators
How many turtles die from plastic straws?
According to The Sea Turtle Conservancy, approximately 100 million marine animals die from ocean debris each year, and more than half of the sea turtles in the world have ingested plastic.
What is wrong with plastic straws?
Plastic isn’t biodegradable, which means that, at the most, plastic straws break down into smaller particles that are harmful for the environment, animals, and humans.
How to Observe National Skip the Straw Day
Skip the straw and tip the glass
The message is in the name. This holiday, the best and most altruistic way to participate is to simply ask your waitress or drive-thru attendant to leave the straw off your purchased beverage. If possible, skip excess waste altogether by either washing and recycling your styrofoam and plastic to-go containers, or by dining in and using real flatware that can be washed and reused.
Push for a plastic straw ban in your city
Some cities like Seattle, Washington have banned plastic straws altogether. If you believe in the cause wholeheartedly, take a half-hour to sit at your computer and write an email, or even make a call to the appropriate political representatives. You may also have an active petition in your area available for signing.
Schedule a trash pickup event
This entire day, while mostly centered around straws, has at its core the desire to decrease harmful pollution in our country and the world at large. In order to support this noble cause, schedule a trash pickup with friends and family in your area. Wear comfortable walking gear and bring along a large bag so that you can gather up the garbage on your cities sidewalks and streets and place it in the appropriate receptacle.
5 Facts About Ocean Pollution That’ll Muddy Your Waters
Oil spills aren’t enemy number one
In reality, oil spills make up only 12% of ocean pollution while three times as much oil runs into the ocean from roads, drainpipes, and rivers.
Garbage patches are a thing now
There’s so much plastic pollution in the ocean that garbage patches have begun to form — there are at least five known patches where the motion of the ocean has compacted a large quantity of waste into one small area.
The sound generated by shipping and military activity harms and disrupts the peaceful sea creatures swimming below the surface.
Some stuff sinks
While there are efforts happening currently to clean the ocean’s surface of floating plastics, a lot of trash sinks to the ocean floor, where it’ll likely never be retrieved as efficiently.
More trash than treasure
With plastic waste being dumped into the ocean at a rate of 17.6 billion pounds per year, it's projected to outnumber fish in the sea by 2050.
Why National Skip the Straw Day is Important
Everyone gets a chance to make a positive change
We’re not asking anyone to move mountains on this national holiday — the task at hand is a fairly simple one that won’t disrupt anyone’s life in any extreme way. Tipping the glass and skipping the straw is a fantastic starting point for anyone who wants to begin living a sustainable lifestyle, but feels overwhelmed by the massive amounts of information. Simply passing on a common kitchen utensil is no big feat.
Tipping the glass means we can take bigger gulps
We don’t really understand what made straws so appealing in the first place. By tipping the glass to our mouths, we can take in so much more of our favorite beverages! Whether we’re indulging in a milkshake, refreshing with a soda, or staying hydrated with plain ol’ water, taking a direct sip is so much easier and more satisfying than conforming to the limitations of a straw.
Celebrating keeps the dialogue open
By taking a positive, community-oriented approach to pollution, the Coral Keepers have set us up to have many productive conversations about how we as a city, state, and country can band together to effect meaningful changes in our daily lives with the goal of protecting our environment. What starts as a playful task soon blooms into an educational opportunity on this momentous day.
National Skip the Straw Day dates