Introducing guest contributor Lauren Graves
My name is Lauren Graves. I am a ray-loving ocean enthusiast first, and a freelance writer second. I graduated from the University of Michigan and set out to make a difference through written word. By writing about topics that matter, helping others, and sharing my knowledge, I’ll make sure that my mark on history is a positive one. Please visit my website to read some of my other pieces and/or make an inquiry at https://lakayha.wixsite.com/laurengraveswriting.
It all started for me when I got to touch a stingray for the first time. I was, well, hooked.
Our oceans need saving, and we all need to do our part. Today I will tell you about mine. I’m writing not as an expert, but as a well-intentioned novice. I know that there are so many people out there doing a lot more than me, but this is what it looks like for a 21-year-old to embark on this journey.
Without delving into too much detail about myself, as that is not the purpose of this article, it is important for you to know that I love ocean creatures more than any other creatures on the planet. My love for them is intense. My husband proposed when were surrounded by fish, and I cried when I saw manta/mobula rays (my favorite animal of all time) on our honeymoon. Aquatic animals are objectively the coolest animals. How can you see a whale, sea turtle, octopus, dolphin, jellyfish, or ray and disagree? So it goes without saying that I am emotionally invested in the well-being of our oceans and have recently begun making small changes in my life in an effort to stop contributing to their demise and, hopefully, keep them safe.
I am hopeful that, by including you on my little quest to find alternatives to products and lifestyle choices that are harmful to our slippery ocean friends and the planet we call home, at least one person will be inspired to join me. Read on.
What started this all for me was scrolling through Facebook and seeing the video that was circulating a couple of years ago, featuring a sea turtle with a plastic straw lodged so far up its nasal cavity that it was coated in blood upon extraction and the turtle’s head had to be held with two hands to keep it still as rescuers pulled it out. I wept for that turtle and for all the others whose rescues didn’t go viral, or perhaps didn’t even happen at all. I felt powerless and small. But I realized that that sea turtle was even more powerless, though not small. I also know that the nasty fingers of pollution grab onto countless others, land and sea-dwelling, and for many it is far too late.
So I bought a metal straw.
I know what you’re thinking: “Buying a single straw isn’t going to make a difference,” and also, “Do you even need a straw?” You’re right and no - I realized that. But it was the babiest of steps in the right direction, and if everyone, or even MOST people, took that step, there wouldn’t be any plastic straws to remove from the gentle bodies of creatures that don’t deserve to have their homes filled with the debris of hundreds of years of wreckless choices. (Picture that for a second: imagine someone coming in and dumping pounds and pounds of garbage, harmful to you, into your home as you watch, powerless to stop it). As for whether I even needed a straw, I was not motivated by a strange inability to not use straws; no, I was motivated by an outreach opportunity. If I carried a metal straw around with me, and I fished it out of my purse every time I was presented with a plastic one (at restaurants, primarily), then people would take notice and ask questions. And guess what? They did, and they do.
If I let myself be dissuaded from my eco-minded efforts by thinking about how others are doing more than me and worrying that nothing I do will be enough, then I’ll give up and actually do nothing. Even one tiny something is better than that. My first one tiny something was the metal straw. Plastic straws were easily conquered, of course. With metal straws in hand, I was ready to do more.
Recently, I have been asking myself what other alternatives there are to environmentally-harmful, everyday items whose perceived necessity in my mind trumped putting in the effort to try to understand what I was doing to our planet. Well, now I’ve let myself feel the discomfort and guilt of my life-long choices, and I’m disgusted. Below is a list of changes I have already made and that you could make, too. You will notice that these are all replacements of objects, and I haven’t yet been able to recycle or reduce - reusable items are not the only approach to greener living, but they are helping me to re-think my choices and make positive change the most in my life right now. Do what works for you.
Plastic straws became metal straws
Plastic grocery bags became reusable grocery bags
Tampons became a reusable menstrual cup
Single-use soap dispensers became packageless/low packaging bar soap
Plastic food storage bags became reusable food storage bags
Plastic food storage containers became glass food storage containers (note: the plastic containers I was using before weren’t “disposable”, but they were still plastic and they didn’t last as long as glass. Therefore, they ended up in dumps sooner)
Paper towel for cleaning became washable rags for cleaning
Disposable water bottles became a reusable metal or recycled plastic water bottle
My sights are set on a future where the waste my household creates is little to nothing. Maybe you are like me and find it really discouraging to think about how irreversible so much of the damage already done is, but take comfort in securing a safer future for creatures to come. If you’re already with me and enjoy an eco-living lifestyle, then keep reaching toward that better planet and don’t forget to spread the word. If not, I hope that you’ll join myself and the countless others that have started to care enough to do something.
What will your first one tiny something be?