If you love something, you want to protect it. This is why 12-year-old Chloe Mei Espinosa of Newport Beach, California — who loves the ocean and the animals that inhabit it — felt inspired to start a campaign to “Skip the Plastic Straw,” in an effort to help keep our oceans free of trash that can hurt marine life.
The campaign, which started as a sixth-grade “passion project” in school, now has its own website where people can take a “Skip the Plastic Straw” pledge. The effort has been so successful that Espinosa has already surpassed her goal of 500 pledges and even convinced her school district (consisting of 32 schools) to completely ditch single-use plastic straws!
According to NBC Los Angeles, the Newport Mesa Unified School District had been going through 10,000 plastic straws per day, but will now eliminate them completely by January.
Espinosa says she was thrilled when her school district agreed to end their use of plastic straws, which was also partly due to the help of the nutrition services director of her school district, Mrs. Ellis.
“It felt like the ocean was giving me a huge hug, saying, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me,'” she says.
Espinosa tells Babble that she was inspired to start the campaign after viewing a video of a sea turtle that had a straw stuck in its nose. As she recently explained to students at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California, marine animals can mistake the straws for food, causing them to suffocate, get injured, or die.
“It really broke my heart to see an innocent animal suffering from trash in the ocean,” she tells Babble.
I can understand how this affected her so deeply. The first time I ever went snorkeling, just two years ago, I ended up swimming alongside a couple of sea turtles and was completely transfixed. They are such majestic animals.
In addition to protecting marine life, Espinosa says she wants to do all she can to keep the ocean clean for future generations.
“I also thought about the kids in the future and if they went into the ocean, what they would see,” she says. “I want them to see a clean, healthy, trash-free ocean so they get to experience and see the marine life we have now.”
According to a report on Boston.com, there are nearly 7.5 million plastic straws lying around America’s shorelines — and that number is small compared to the amount of trash that’s bobbing around in the ocean.
As for what’s next for the campaign, Espinosa says she would like to continue educating youth and working towards encouraging restaurants and other school districts to “Skip the Plastic Straw.” She also has a message for other young people who are hoping to change the world.
“I want other young people to know that in order to make a difference, it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance,” says Espinosa. “There might be an obstacle or challenge in your way that can be super frustrating that you just can’t seem to solve, but you must not give up. Just remember that whatever step you take, you are helping the world in some way.”
Espinosa’s determination to protect the ocean and marine life she loves is inspiring, and proof that making a difference in the world doesn’t have to be complicated. By making a choice every day to “Skip the Plastic Straw,” we can all help contribute to less trash in our oceans today and in the future.