THE BLOG
01/07/2016 04:31 pm ET Updated Jan 07, 2017

The Gift From Our Precursors

We have been given a gift from our ancestors. We have been challenged.

Today we face the biggest environmental crisis that our population has ever seen. Centuries of careless development and industrial "progress" has sent the planet into a state of utter disarray. Plastic saturates our oceans, ice caps are melting at alarming speeds, there is contamination from pesticides in our water, and species are being lost at rates hardly imaginable. For many of us, it seems more is going wrong, than right; that there is little hope for the oceans, or the tigers, or the the great yet receding rainforests of the world, but like I said, we have been challenged.

Last year a project was launched at our high school through a nonprofit called There Is No Away, with the goal to reduce single use plastics in our town, specifically plastic straws. With more than 500 million straws used and thrown away in the U.S. alone everyday, the movement was inspired to cut the use of this unnecessary yet abundant item. The project was called Straws Upon Request. Sixteen Drake High School students asked every restaurant in our town, San Anselmo, to only provide straws to those who requested one, and in addition, to completely switch over to using paper straws. Though the paper straws cost twice as much as the plastic ones at roughly two cents apiece, the expense would be offset by the significant reduction of plastic straws being used, thus benefiting both the restaurants financially and the planet environmentally.

Straws are a luxury item that restaurants, bars, and cafes have used for so long we don't so much acknowledge or note their presence anymore. When you go to the grocery store, or to the market, how often do you find yourself buying a pack of plastic straws for the house? Or in the kitchen wishing that you could be drinking out of your glass with a straw? I'm imagining that the answer to both these questions, is not often.

The Straws Upon Request movement was received very positively throughout our entire community. Many restaurants have reduced their use of straws and others have stopped serving them altogether. Restaurants expressed to us that putting straws in drinks was purely habitual, and that once brought to their attention, the choice seemed rather obvious; to take the pledge. For some restaurants, that meant throwing 20 years worth of habit, away.

The consequences of the past decades are falling onto the shoulders of this generation. We were not the ones to cause the damage we see today, but it is us who are charged with finding the fix. We are a generation of scholars, of innovators, environmentalists, doctors, actors, adventurers. I have no doubt that the brilliant minds of this world will be able to redirect the path we are currently heading towards. Though it will not be our generation, or the next, or probably even many after that until we will start to see signs of improvement, we are still the ones to implement radical change right now.

Our planet has never seen times so dire, yet we have never seen people come together like this before either. Millions of people around the globe are fighting for this planet, millions are working towards solutions, no matter how small, no matter how seemingly insignificant, in all corners of the earth. We are the generations that will rebuild the world.

This is our challenge.

Rylie Neely is a senior at Drake High School in San Anselmo, CA., where she is enrolled in the SEA-DISC Environmental Academy, and is also an intern at the plastics-reduction non-profit There is No Away. As part of the "There Is No Away" Project ~ she engages local restaurants to change their straw protocol to serve straws only upon request, see new FB Video about the program link here.Rylie participated in the 2015 summer program at the Island School on Grand Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, following a family legacy tradition which deepened her interest in environmental studies.

Join Rylie, take the pledge to refuse plastic straws and save sea turtles!

WEBSITES: http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/no-straw-pleasehttp://thereisnoaway.net/strawsuponrequest/