On March 28, 2018, the University of Maine announced that they would be taking part in Simply Straws’ #PledgeAgainstPlasticStraws 2018 Campus Challenge. Simply Straws is an eco-friendly company that produces and promotes the use of glass straws as an alternative to plastic straws. The challenge involves the participation from almost 90 colleges and 16 K-12 schools across the nation who will all aim to reduce the use of plastic straws as much as possible during the month of April.
According to Simply Straws’ website, more than 500 million plastic straws are used and disposed of every year and by the year 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean unless something is done to enact change.
When asked about what kind of message she thinks the university is trying to make by involving themselves in this challenge, second-year student Brooklyn Washburn explained that “by participating in this challenge, it shows how important this crisis with plastic polluting our environment is…and by partaking in a challenge like this, [it] actually makes a difference no matter how small it seems to be.”
The challenge was introduced to the University by Alicia Oberholzer, the Energy Efficiency Coordinator in the Office of Sustainability.
“I’ve had a Simply Straws glass straw for a while now and received an email form them announcing the campus #PledgeAgainstPlasticStraws challenge,” Oberholzer explained, “I immediately thought this would be very fitting for Earth month as the global theme this year for Earth Day is putting an end to plastic pollution.”
Her decision for participation in the challenge has been widely accepted and commended by those who support the movement.
“I think this issue is so important because plastic and plastic straws are getting into our oceans and bodies of water and killing off species everywhere,” Washburn noted, “… No amount of money and fortune we have will matter when we physically can’t live on this earth anymore and it can no longer sustain us.”
The University prides itself on being an increasingly sustainable campus so it is certainly not a big surprise that the university wanted to participate in the challenge. Since dedicating themselves to a sustainability commitment in 2005, the university has since implemented many new systems and resources such as the Zero-Sort recycling system and providing the sourcement of World Centric compostable straws. In order to reap the benefits of such efforts, however, they need to be utilized and that’s where the #PledgeAgainstPlasticStraws challenge comes in.
Through the use of the hashtag #PledgeAgainstPlasticStraws, individuals are encouraged to spread the word and advocate about the movement using the link https://simplystraws.com/pages/umaine and posting a photo or video using the hashtag to take the pledge. Each pledge will help the university as we see which participating school can gather the most by the end of April. The winning school gets 100 custom etched reusable glass straws and social media promotion perks.
“There is a reason that ‘recycle’ comes last in the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’,” Oberholzer explains, “… I hope that through learning about the negative effects of plastic pollution, [individuals] will be galvanized to either stop using plastic straws altogether or invest in a reusable straw.”