The Final Straw

Disclaimer: this story includes fictional names and is loosely based off of real events. The truth of plastic straws, however, is 100 percent true. 

For Saint Clair Shores sophomore Elena Bozeman, she believed she had mastered the art of being a diehard, college town environmentalist--at least until goals were challenged during a Thursday excursion to the Bird Bar and Grill.

Her companions for the evening, Royal Oak junior Iris Scott, Houghton senior Lucy Denali and West Bloomfield senior Eric Denver all considered themselves student environmentalists and wildlife advocates. Of course, they were the type of conservationists who enjoyed the occasional $2 well drink specials, but each said they were tree huggers in every possible way.

Bozeman, crammed on a bench, couldn’t resist sighing at the not-so-green setting unfolding vivaciously around them. If one stared closely enough, they could notice her slipping the “No Fur” button into the deepest corner of her front pocket, despite occupying a tendency for always wearing it on her chest with ultimate self-assurance.

She glances over at Denali, who had proudly done things the “bohemian way” and smoked two grams of the Apollo 13 hybrid marijuana strain before floating into the bar.

While her friend very openly dreams of engulfing a veggie dog at the late-night hot dog restaurant nextdoor, Bozeman can’t help but ask, “are we in the wrong here?”  

Denali’s literal red-tainted vision is inclined toward Denver’s cup of vodka with sprite, absorbing the image of wrinkly plastic and the black straw promising to haunt the world for up to 200 years before ever being eligible for decomposing.

As “7 rings” by Ariana Grande plays in the background, Bozeman plays a video by Texas A&M University marine biologist Christine Figgener.

Suiting to the major issue bothering the group the most, it is the video of a sea turtle with a 10-12 centimeter plastic straw plunged into its nose in Costa Rica.

A 22-year old male with pink flamingo shorts and a bicep tattoo of black-and-white jaguar mangling a dog tag showcasing the words “family first” asks the table what they were watching.

When told it was a video which has matured into a campaigning device aiming to eliminate the massive purchasing and use of single-use, non-biodegradable plastics, specifically straws, he chuckles, takes a prolonged sip from his straw and squawks “I was hoping it was porn.”

Bozeman said she has no other choice than to seek the safest haven to exist in a crowded, dimly lit bar at 10:36 p.m.: the women’s bathroom.

“Oh my god, you need to stop,” Scott said, while trying to remove her straw from her tequila sunrise and to place it in the back pocket of her distressed jeans.

As Bozeman shoves her platinum hair into a sloppy bun, she allows herself to wonder if she should stop questioning and brutally critiquing herself as an environmentalist.

She later revealed thinking, “well, haven’t I done everything I possibly could?”

Bozeman is studying sustainability and environmental policy with a minor in environmental science and has been a disciplined vegan since she was 13-years old. She is a hired college and concert representative for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), always drinks out of a reusable water bottle and pays $45 monthly to have a recycling bin stationed at her off-campus house.

“I feel like there are some key rules to remember if you’re going to walk around as an environmentalist on campus,” she said.

The rules she listed included:

  • Never wear fur or invest in fur-made products

  • Always use reusable water bottles and reusable bags for shopping

  • Make genuine and effective effort to purchase items from thrift and second-hand stores

  • Keep any consumption of meat or animal-originating products at an absolute minimum

  • Recycle at all and any costs

  • Acknowledge and shame plastic products as being the absolute worst

According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, an estimated 500 million plastic straws are used each day in the United States, inevitably contributing to the 8.5 million metric tons of plastic debris discovered annually in oceans.

The Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. provided plastic straws ultimately exist and serve as the fifth most frequently scavenged items on beaches, with a non-biodegradable lifespan set to surpass any human life.

Despite these truths, the group of environmentalists still found themselves at the type of bar where jars filled airtight with plastic, non-decomposable sit in pairs at every table.

They wander back to the table and stare into their cups of declining alcohol--two straws in each of them.

“Maybe we’re all just posers,” Denver said, taking another sip and staring down at his lap.