By Abby Johnson
Cathy Stacey couldn’t get the image out of her head. It was of a baby sea turtle, struggling to breathe, the plastic straw descending further into the reptile’s nostril with every attempted intake of air.
This disturbing story is becoming the norm for our ocean’s marine life, as a study performed by the Marine Wildlife Society shows that 70 percent of sea birds and 30 percent of sea turtles have some amount of plastic in their ecosystems.
Doing what she can to turn around this ecological tragedy, Stacey, owner of Ellie’s Cafe, 10701 S. Hale, recently made the decision to eliminate the use of plastic straws at the restaurant.
“I had been hearing from people for a while that plastic waste not only harms animals, but kills them,” Stacey said. “I like to think of myself as a strong candidate for animal rights, so I couldn’t just continue to listen to this stuff and then do nothing.”
A little over one month ago, Ellie’s Cafe made the switch that so many in the conservation world have been encouraging: Her business now provides customers with paper straws, instead of plastic ones. It’s a necessary change, as the World Economic Forum predicts the amount of plastic in the oceans will outweigh all the fish in the oceans by 2050 if the accumulation rate isn’t curbed.
“It wasn’t something I had to think about much,” she said. “The bottom line is that straws are a convenience for us. We don’t need them to survive. So why wouldn’t we use an alternative that doesn’t harm animals?”
The reaction from customers to Stacey’s decision? Stacey said a lot of customers don’t even notice the change. But those who do, for the most part, have been positive.
“People like the idea of bettering the environment,” she said. “I’m happy that people understand why it’s important to make this change. It sounds cheesy, but I can always count on this neighborhood to guide me to do the right thing.”