School substitutes plastic straws to reduce waste

Joanna Im

After the Environmental Club pushed for change, the school is now replacing plastic straws with papers ones in an effort to reduce the its amount of plastic waste.

Environmental Club leader Anja Clark ’19 said that the new policy will raise awareness about the school’s resource consumption and encourages movement towards eliminating plastic waste.

“The Environmental Club is focusing on making the school more sustainable and trying to shift the culture of students to be mindful of their consumption and its consequences,” Clark said. “Last year, our focus was on straws because the ‘Stop Sucking’ movement already had a fair amount of awareness and we need to take baby steps towards a plastic-free school.”

Chief of Campus Operations and Construction Jim DeMatte said that the process of implementing the policies concerning alternative straws on campus was streamlined, and people in the decision-making process agreed to the school’s substitution of plastic straws with paper ones after a long process.

“After a lot of meetings with [Science Teacher Nadine] Eisenkolb, [Head of Upper School Laura] Ross, [Chief Financial Officer David] Weil and Sonya [Ribner ’19] we all decided that making these changes were really the correct thing to do for the campus and school,” DeMatte said.

State authorities are also enforcing a new law that prohibits the distribution of straws without customers’ request in restaurants.

The new law is just one of many steps that the state is taking to reduce plastic waste. A bill was passed in 2014 banning disposable plastic bags at food markets, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed off on a bill in 2015 that planned to ban the use of micro-beads in personal care goods by 2020.

However, some critics, including David Arkow ’20, said that the new California law requiring customers to ask for straws and the school’s paper straw policy might not be effective in combating environmental harm, and that the effort should be left to individual students.

“Relating to straws, students should have a choice as whether to use the plastic or paper straws,” Arkow said. “In the end, it is up to the individual person if they really want to put in the effort to reduce plastic waste.”
Other students, however, said that the policy is beneficial to the school’s efforts to combat environmental harm.

“Paper straws are a great initiative because it’s an example of a simple and seemingly small action we as a school can take to resolve environmental issues,” Samantha Mcloughlin ’21 said. “As a relatively privileged school, I think we have an obligation to be aware of the way our everyday actions affect the world.”

Ethan Hoddess ’20 said that he believes that the new school policy is consistent with the California law.

“I feel like our school fits into the intention of the California straw laws – the fact that we even replaced the plastic straws with paper straws is taking the next step to reduce plastic waste,” Hoddess said.