Saving Our Rivers and Oceans… One Straw at a Time

Infographic provided by One More Generation with assistance from our friends at Be Straw Free

Hi! It’s Olivia from One More Generation here.

Did you know that in America alone we are using over 500,000,000 plastic straws every single day? That’s right: 500 million. That’s 1.6 straws for every man, woman, and child living in this country—and the sad part is that virtually no straws ever get recycled.

If you took all the straws we use in just one day, you could fill about 127 school buses with plastic straws. That is 127 school buses full of plastic straws that were used an average of 20 minutes and then tossed away. The plastic will sit in our landfills for hundreds of years—or even worse, end up in our rivers and oceans, where many species will end up accidentally eating them and eventually die.

Ask yourself this: “Do I really need to use a straw?” If you are like the over 95% of us, your answer will probably be “No.” 

If you are one of the less-than-5% of the population that actually needs to use a straw, then undoubtedly you have already discovered that there are plenty of reusable straws on the market which can simply be washed and reused over and over. There are companies that make reusable straws made out of glass (pyrex), straws made out of metal, straws made out of bamboo. There are even straws made out of hard, reusable-type plastics and even single-use straws made out of straw or paper. And for you hot-beverage drinkers who enjoy your coffee but are concerned that coffee might stain your teeth, there are even straws made out of silicone, which allow you to sip your favorite hot beverage without worrying about any discoloration of your teeth. When you are through, you simply drop the silicone straw in your dishwasher and you are all set to use it again. You can find links to some of our favorite reusable straw companies on our “Resources” page.

As my brother and I learned about the severity of the problem, we quickly realized that although the sheer volume of plastic straws being used in America each day may seem overwhelming, we can all immediately start being the solution by simply saying “No” to single-use straws. Plastic straws are among the top 10 items found in clean-up events and among the top five among coastal clean-up events.

So how do we fix this problem? Well, it is really very easy.

We have just launched a global OneLessStraw Pledge Campaign that asks everyone to sign a pledge stating that they promise to go strawless for 30 days.We created the campaign for students all over the world, and are asking them to be the driver of change in their homes and communities. Here is how it works:

Individual, school, and restaurant pledge forms are available in English and Spanish.

We are asking teachers to share the facts from the infographic at the top of this post with their students. Schools merely sign the online pledge stating they agree to allow their students to be part of the campaign and share the materials from our website with their class.

We list all participating schools on our interactive Google Map located on the main page of our website, so people can see which schools are progressively trying to help be the solution. Most schools are setting aside one class period during the week to inform their students about the campaign, and allowing students to sign the online “Individual” pledge one-by-one in class. It only takes about 30 seconds to fill in the pledge.

Students are then given the homework assignment to go home and share their new knowledge about the severity of the issue and get at least one parent to also sign the pledge. We have a built-in fun fundraising component for the schools as well.  As the students

We have a built-in, fun fundraising component for the schools as well. As a student shares what they have learned and tells the parent that they and their classmates all signed the pledge, they ask their parent to do the same. Only this time, they advise the parents that every time the student catches them accepting or using a plastic straw during the next 30 days, they have to agree to pay a penalty. The penalty amount is decided by the students and the parent. Most parents are agreeing to pay 50 cents or $1.00 for every time they use a plastic straw during the next 30 days. The goal is to get the parents to think twice before using or accepting a straw—and after being busted by their kids several times throughout the month, most will catch on and start making it a habit to say “No” to the plastic straw.

100% of the collected funds go to the school, so the school can afford to support more environmental education programs.

Servers at North Beach Bar and Grill proudly wear their OneLessStraw Pledge Campaign buttons.
Image courtesy One More Generation

The program also tasks students and adults to approach their favorite restaurant and ask that they participate in the campaign by signing a pledge stating that they promise, for 30 days, only to hand out straws upon request from their customers. The beauty of the program is that this is something that is done on a voluntary basis and not forced upon the restaurant owner or their customer. In most cases, the money saved by not handing out so many plastic straws during the 30 days allows the restaurant owner to afford to buy paper straws for the select customers who demand using a straw. We designed cool campaign buttons for servers to wear that helps explain the campaign and get the conversation started as to why the restaurant has decided to join the campaign.

All of our materials are available in both Spanish and English, and are downloadable from the “Media Kit” link on our website. All participating restaurants get their logo and website featured both on our OneLessStraw Partners Page and on our interactive Google Map.

We hope you, too, like our campaign and that you will also sign the pledge today. Please share the campaign with others all around the world so that collectively, we can tackle the issue and start making a difference.

Campaign buttons for servers are available for order on our website.
Photograph courtesy One More Generation

Thanks for reading and please stay tuned next month where I will be introducing you to a global campaign my brother and I are involved with called the The POP Movement.”

Olivia Ries is our National Geographic Society Youth Empowerment writer. Together with her brother, Carter, she hopes to inspire others to realize that “Anybody can make a difference… if they can, you can too.” Make sure to check out their TEDxYouth presentation along with their website at and also ‘LIKE’ their FaceBook page as well 😉

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