Straws are a ubiquitous part of daily life: they pop up in our morning coffee runs, in our daily lunch smoothies, and even in elementary school crafts. However, the convenience and easiness of their use have a dark side: straws are extremely harmful to the environment and animals. Straws are often made out of plastic and BPA, and thus not biodegradable, creating a huge environmental burden on the earth. Disposable straws are one of the most environmentally toxic burdens on the environment, due to their prominence and additionally their size: since they’re so small, people throw them away, and they often become a big source of litter in both oceans and land.

In the U.S., an estimated 500 million straws are used, and additionally, have a usage lifespan of only 20 minutes. After examining the huge environmental cost that straws have on the environment, people are only beginning to realize the huge impact that such a small thing could have on the life of marine or land animal if it enters their environment and habitat.

The use of straws is convenient, but not altogether impossible to remove from your lifestyle. The usage of containers that don’t require straws is an easy way to remove the accessibility of straws from your life. Additionally, if your drink comes with a straw, ask the person making your drink (whether it’s a bartender or a barista) to hold the straw. Setting a trend of going “strawless” could even encourage your friends to be more mindful of how they consume their iced beverages. While your own individual actions may not seem significant - staring at the pile of straws in front of you when deciding whether or not to do your environmental duty for the day- remember the cumulative actions of many individuals make the difference.

Straws are widely popular due to their ability to be used in enclosed containers, which is one of the main appeals of taking drinks “to go”. However, there is an easy solution: using reusable straws, or using containers that have straws that can be washed and reused, or even using compostable straws. These actions significantly deter the effects and negative externalities of using straws. While it might seem like a small action, the small actions that make up parts of our daily life have a much bigger impact than previously thought, creating little habits that if just a part of the population takes part in, will help us create a new sustainable future.