Advanced Indiana Master Naturalist Mary Powell carries six glass bottles of water in a cooler in her car as an alternative to buying water in single-use bottles. Photo by Don Knight | The Herald Bulletin
Advanced Indiana Master Naturalist Mary Powell carries six glass bottles of water in a cooler in her car as an alternative to buying water in single-use bottles. Photo by Don Knight | The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON — You've probably seen it. Over 37 million people have — a video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nostril.

It's compelling and leaves many motivated to do something. But what?

Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced annually and 50 percent of that is single-use plastic, according to the Plastic Oceans website.

Those single-use items are things like straws, cups and bags that are only used once, then tossed.

The video was viewed Thursday at the monthly Friends of the Mounds meeting, where Advanced Indiana Master Naturalist Mary Powell's delivered this message to the group: If everyone does a little, together we can make a difference.

Powell has always been interested in recycling and wondered what she could do in her own life to reduce the amount of single-use plastic she consumed.

One way she found to make a difference was paying attention to what she bought and how she got it home.

"Slow down and think about what you are doing when shopping," Powell said. "The point is, put less in the landfill.

"My son is 48. His diapers are still in a landfill in Michigan," she added, noting it takes 450 years for a diaper to break down.

She had several tips for preparing for a trip to the grocery store:

• Bring your own bags, including reusable mesh bags for produce that can be purchased from the internet for produce.

• Buy items in recyclable packaging. For example, buy tuna that comes in a tin instead of a pouch.

Powell also brings her own bags, several of which she makes from old feed bags, to carry her groceries home.

She also had tips for recycling plastic.

For example, plastic bags shouldn't be placed in the recycling bin, but there are stores in Anderson that will take them back.

Pay Less, Meijer and Kohl's will all take plastic bags for recycling, Powell said.

While talking about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Mounds naturalist Savannah Lundgren implored people, if they do only one thing, to start with straws.

"It's those straws," Lundgren said.

An alternative is paper straws — which, it turns out, is not a new idea.

Marvin Stone received a patent for an "artificial straw" made of paper in 1888. Legend has it the natural grass straws used at the time lent a grassy flavor to his mint julep that he found objectionable, according to an article from the Atlantic. So he invented a better alternative.

But when a local restaurant tried to go back to the old days of paper straws, it didn't go so well.

Abel Tello, manager of La Nueva Charreada in Anderson, reported that when they made the switch, customers started complaining. Some people felt they were too soggy, so the restaurant switched back to plastic straws and are looking for other ways to reduce their plastic use.

“It seems like nothing, but little by little it helps," Tello said.

Of course, if paper straws are not your thing, consider a reusable metal straw or just tell your server you don't want one.

"If we start making these decisions and people know we are because we care, maybe it will change," Powell said.
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