"Eco-ableism is simply a form of ableism, or discrimination in favor of able-bodied people. The “eco” comes from environmental activists who, through attempting to save the environment, don’t do so that takes into account those with less privilege than them." -Eco Warrior Princess
The subject of single use plastic bans and in particular straw bans start conversations that can go in many directions. One of the reasons I want to talk about single use plastic straws instead of the general single use plastic is because of what happened when the first straw bans started trending. The conversation and the controversy that started was, I think and hope, an important turning point in environmental activism. It was time to take a few steps back and put extra thought into plastic bans, not all, just some.
We all know the facts about why single use plastic straws are bad and you might even be getting overwhelmed by the constant reminders because it has become the big current trend. We have all seen plenty of heartbreaking videos and photos of various wildlife (the turtle video https://youtu.be/4wH878t78bw WARNING: this is a hard one to watch) being impacted by straws or beaches and bodies of water covered in plastic.
Here are a few of the iconic images that have shocked us all into making changes:
Facts about single use plastic straws:
I am always fascinated about how trends start. Why the single use plastic straw ban over some of the other important issues we need to take into consideration to help protect the planet and reduce the amount of plastics ending up in our oceans? As some say, straws were the low hanging fruit in the world of environmental activism. They are visible, abundant, and, so they thought, would be an easy success story in the war on plastic. Celebrities and big corporations have a big impact. The Lonely Whale Foundation (with the awesome Adrian Grenier as a co-founder) started the "Strawless Seattle" and #StopSucking campaigns. For more information about Lonely Whale go to: https://www.lonelywhale.org/.
And then there is Starbucks plan to eliminate plastic straws by replacing them with a plastic sippy cup style lid. Although, the lid might be recyclable, it is replacing one piece of needed plastic with a larger amount of plastic that doesn't cover the needs of many people. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/09/business/starbucks-plastic-straws.html
One of the other reasons why straw bans have been trending is because they became controversial and for a very good reason. The first drafts of bans did not take into consideration that straws save lives, they were an outright ban with no exceptions to the rule. Let me repeat this, STRAWS SAVE LIVES. And this is where the conversation turns to something that doesn’t get much coverage, a term called “eco-ableism”. This phrase has become a part of my life as I have been transitioning to a low waste lifestyle but also in the past year have had to adjust to a body that is no longer able to do the things I use to because of a disability. And although my disability has nothing to do with using or not using a straw, my empathy towards living with a disability that makes daily tasks harder for many people has gone through the roof in the past year. I wanted to use the trending straw bans as a way to introduce the idea of eco-ableism. It really needs its own discussion, but for now we are just talking straws. In my research I have found many discussions on the subject that I would like to share with you.
Here is a link to a great article about the general idea of eco-ableism and why it needs to be considered when talking about environmental activism.
I liked this podcast because she talked about the importance of single use plastic bans like bags but gave very good reasons why the beginning versions of the plastic straw bans needed more consideration. https://rudermanfoundation.org/podcast/episode-1/
And more articles about straw bans and disabilities.
Reviews on a variety of reusable straws.
Playing the guilt game. Yes, there needs to be less single use straws in this world. No, you don’t need to give someone a reason why you are asking for a straw. And, no, you don’t need to feel guilty about using a single use plastic straw. I keep seeing this meme trending and I absolutely hate it. Nobody deserves this guilt trip.
One of the strongest ways to reduce single use plastic straw use is for corporations and businesses to take action on their own to reduce use. A simple policy change of only providing a straw when requested, no questions asked, will do the trick.
Ending on a lighter but still honest note:
Have you been affected by eco-ableism? What is your favorite type of reusable straw to use? Tell us in the comments! Mine is glass because of the variety of sizes and it doesn't change the taste of the drink. But, I am thinking silicone would also be a great option because of it's bendability and ease of cleaning and sanitizing.
Want to know more about our glass straw collection? Here is a video from our partners at Strawesome:
If you want to make the switch to reusable straws here is our selection. They make great gifts!
Author: Karen West
Exploring and learning all things sustainability as a small retail business owner in Homer, AK.