A group of New Paltz High School students worked with Village and Town officials to pass a resolution urging restaurants to ask before dipping disposable straws in patrons drinks.
“Sometimes you can do simple things to make a big impact,” said Village of New Paltz Deputy Mayor KT Tobin. “We are asking our restaurants to change this harmful usage of single use straws.”
According to data from Riverkeeper, a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping the Hudson River and its streams clean, single-use straws are among the top five most common items scattered across shorelines. Seeing this, students in the high school’s Participation in Student Government, Literature and Economics for Today’s Students (PIGLETS) worked with Tobin and other officials to pass the resolution.
Tahlia Quintero, a senior at New Paltz High School, and her passionate posse of PIGLETS spearheaded the policy as an assignment for her class.
“We were really passionate about the environment and single-use plastics are easily replaceable,” Quintero said. “It felt like I was actually doing something to help; it was so easy that straw saving would be ridiculous.”
While small children and elderly people may require straws, the vast majority of restaurant patrons do not. The straws often go unwanted or unused, making them a zero-use plastic pollutant in the environment.
The Riverkeeper rganization conducts numerous shoreline cleanups alongside the Hudson River and found that disposable straws are commonly found items. These plastics eventually break down further and are consumed by fish and other wildlife. The toxins from these plastics are not only harmful to animals, but to the people who may inadverdently consume them at seafood markets as well.
Dan Shapley, Quality Program Director at Riverkeeper, spoke about the positive change this resolution will spark. In a Facebook post, Shapley showed off his own set of reusable straws made from glass, metal and washable plastic.
“We have a throwaway culture, and that’s why we have a sea of microplastics,” Shapely said. “I hope restaurants act on the resolution and take pride in it.”
According to Tobin, she has yet to hear any negative feedback from local business owners and noted that some had even taken this initiative before the resolution passed. Lagusta’s Luscious Commissary, a New Paltz coffee shop, does not provide lids, but they do provide washable mugs for in-store patrons instead, and that discourages the use of straws.
“I think people overuse straws and the only solution is cutting down on their consumption,” said Commissary co-owner Lagusta Yearwood. “It’s a lot more expensive, but that’s our mission, so we go for it.”
Although the no-straw resolution is not mandatory, New Paltz officials feel it was an appropriate action with the Empire State Trail to bring an influx of tourism to town. Additionally the PIGLETS plan to speak with restaurant and encourage placing “no straw” pledges on their tables to solidify their commitment to the cause.
“We are the generation that will make change,” Quintero said. “Town board members want to hear our opinions because we they appreciate multiple voices and know we are the future.”