07/27/2012 03:33 pm ET

Table Talk: Saving The World, One Straw At A Time

This week's Family Dinner Table Talk, from HuffPost and The Family Dinner book:

Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference -- just ask Milo Cress. The 10-year-old from Burlington, VT realized that a local restaurant was giving straws to customers even if they didn’t use them. What started as an attempt to cut back on straw waste locally has transformed into an impressive campaign to cut back on the over 500 million straws the world uses in a single day.

Since Milo started the project in 2011, he has met with members of Congress, was recognized by the National Restaurant Association for his "offer first" policy, and says he has restaurants in 30 countries interested in joining together with BeStrawFree. And talk about results: in restaurants that have adopted his policy, owners see a 50-80% drop in straw use, keeping innumerable plastic straws from entering the environment.

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, plastics like those found in the straws Milo's campaign targets do not biodegrade, and can actually become more toxic as they break down.

Milo isn’t the only one making a difference in reducing plastic waste. Other kids -- some of whom aren’t even teenagers yet -- have started programs with the goal of keeping harmful plastics out of the environment. Plastic Patrol, founded by Merit Leighton and Marlowe Payton when they were only 6 and 4 years old, provides tips for reducing plastic waste and how to make use of the plastics that already exist. And One More Generation was started in 2009 by 7- and 8-year-old siblings Olivia and Carter, who have also launched Plastic Awareness Week -- and even inspired Miley Cyrus with their environmental efforts.

Getting recognized by a celebrity is cool, but Olivia, Carter, Merit, Marlowe and Milo are more than trendsetters: they are creating a better future so when their own kids are their age, worrying about plastic can be a thing of the past.

Questions for discussion:
  • What plastics do we use on a regular basis?
  • How can we cut back on plastic in our family?
  • Is there a cause you believe in that you could turn into a campaign like Milo’s?

In her cookbook, The Family Dinner, Laurie David talks about the importance of families making a ritual of sitting down to dinner together, and how family dinners offer a great opportunity for meaningful discussions about the day's news. "Dinner," she says, "is as much about digestible conversation as it is about delicious food."

We couldn't agree more. So HuffPost has joined with Laurie and every Friday afternoon, just in time for dinner, our editors highlight one of the most compelling news stories of the week -- stories that will spark a lively discussion among the whole family.