No Straw November from the Jr. Ocean Guardians

Guest author Shelby O’Neil is a 16 year old high school junior in  a small agricultural community in California, about 40 minutes from the  ocean. She founded Jr. Ocean Guardians to help educate lower grade  level children on plastic pollution and recycling and started the “No  Straw November” movement, which has gained a worldwide following. Visit  to learn more about Shelby and to take the “No Straw November” pledge.

I  am often asked why I “give up” my precious teenage weekends and swap  them out for picking up trash on random beaches. I am also posed with  the question of why I spend weekday afternoons talking to young school  children about plastic pollution. The answer is simple: change will not  happen unless we light a spark within as many people as possible, and  every beach clean-up that removes plastic pollution from the shore, and  every school presentation educating students that plastics are polluting  our oceans, brings us one step closer to long-lasting change. This is  why I decided to start the No Straw November campaign - to give not only future generations, but people all over the world, an opportunity to make a change.

No Straw November  is a pledge to refuse single-use plastic straws during the entire  month. In addition to the pledge, participants also record how many  times they were offered, and refused, a single-use plastic straw. By  recording the number of single-use plastic straws offered and refused,  they will learn first-hand just how prevalent the issue is and the  impact one person can have. Recent studies estimate that by 2050, there  will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Although this is a scary  thought, what’s scarier is the massive lack of education behind the  impacts of plastic pollution. No Straw November is not only  interactive, but it also provides an opportunity to help people start  understanding the need to eliminate single-use straws and how they can  make one small change that will have a large positive impact on our  oceans and planet. 

Educating children on the problem of plastic  pollution and inspiring the next eco-friendly generation, who will bring  much-needed political and social change in the future, is a key mission  of Jr. Ocean Guardians. Through No Straw November, we hope to  inspire them and instill a desire to help better this earth. To teach  them, children are provided with an activity book that helps make the  topic of plastic pollution relatable and easy to understand. Fellow  teenage ambassadors and I also spread the word from classroom to  classroom and troop to troop. 

Jr. Ocean Guardians believes that the golden trait younger school  children possess is their voice. They have the confidence to ask a  waiter for “no straw”. They grasp the idea that if they walk or ride  their bike they can help give earth a well-deserved break. They  understand that their actions could potentially help and or hurt our  planet. And when the younger generation grows up understanding and  embracing this change, the world will be left better than how they found  it.

We need role models who embrace these problems and openly  talk about the issues – role models who have the power to not only bring  social change, but political change as well. I want the generation  behind me to grow up with knowledge of why the environment is important  so that when it comes time for them to vote, they understand to put our  planet first. Role models may come in all shapes and sizes, but the one  thing they all have in common is the opportunity to empower the future  generation. My hope is that we can rally together and all become role  models for the next generation and fight plastic pollution together.

Last updated July 2, 2018

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