Kids Doing Rad Stuff: Straw No More
What is your name?
How old are you?
I am 9 years old. I turn 10 in February.
Can you tell us a bit more about where are you from?
I live in Cairns, which is at the northern tip of Queensland, Australia. It’s the pointy part on the map. It’s also the home of the Great Barrier Reef.
What are your favourite subjects at school?
I love Science and English. My mum says that’s because I’m a curious chatterbox.
If you could change anything about school what would it be?
How long we have to go. Surely we could have more holidays.
What are your favourite animals?
I love Turtles. I get to play with them when I go to the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on Fitzroy Island.
If you could talk to animals, what would you tell them?
I would ask them what they want us to do to help them.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
My superpower would definitely be being able to talk to animals. And maybe flying, because it gets really hot in Cairns, and I’d like to be able to fly to the beach whenever I wanted to, instead of walking.
What are some of your favourite things to do?
Swimming. It’s really hot up here in Cairns, so we spend a lot of time at the beach and creeks, having a swim. Anything to keep cool. I also love dancing and singing.
Having the Great Barrier Reef as your playground must be amazing right?
Yeah – it’s pretty cool. I know that people come from all over the world to come and see it. But I’d love to see snow one day. Of course, I don’t actually own a jumper, so I’d probably freeze!
Who inspires you?
There are heaps of people in my life who are really awesome. My mum’s friend, Alex, is a marine biologist and she tells me about things she does in her job. She was with us when we first saw the movie. I want to be a marine biologist when I grow up. I also love my dance teacher, Miss Caitlin. She’s just finished University and will start teaching at a local high school next year.
What are some of your biggest achievements this year so far?
It’s been a really busy year. I’ve just finished Grade 4 and did okay on my report card. I have also been nominated for a couple of awards, including the Cairns Regional Council Young Person of the Year Award, the Queensland Young Achiever of the Year Awards, and the Cassowary Awards, which is for young kids helping the environment. I’ve also been named as one of the Champions of the Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s a new campaign for the Great Barrier Reef that is being run by Andy Ridley, who is the founder of Earth Hour. I also did the TEDx talk in September, which was scary but a big honour. And… I had my dance concert on the weekend, which was lots of fun.
If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be?
I would definitely want to meet Selena Gomez. Or Miley Cyrus. Or Justin Bieber. Or Taylor Swift. Okay, so there’s lots of people that I want to meet.
What was the trigger for you to decide that you wanted to do something about plastic pollution?
I wasn’t meant to watch the movie, A Plastic Ocean, that night. But my brother and I had been fighting, so my mum decided to split us up for a few hours. I went with her, and my brother, Joe, stayed home with my dad and sisters. The movie was pretty shocking. I had never really thought about plastic pollution before that night. On the way home from watching the movie that night, I asked my mum what I could do to help. She told me that making small changes can create big changes. Straws seemed pretty small, and it seemed an easy enough place to start.
Tell us a little bit about ‘Straw No More’ and what you do….
At Straw No More, I talk to people about straws a lot. Like, a LOT! So I’ve started talking to schools all over Cairns and asking them to stop using straws in their school canteens. We call them tuckshops in Australia. It’s been pretty scary talking to older kids, but I’m getting used to it. Also talking to principals from other schools was pretty freaky at first, but now I am used to that too. When the principal agrees to stop using straws in the tuck shop, they get sent some posters to help the kids remember to say no to straws.
Why did you choose to focus on just straws?
It seems that drinking out of straws is something we do without even thinking about it. I get that there are people who have a disability, so they need to use straws to eat and drink. But most people don’t need to use straws. It’s just a habit we have formed. And it’s pretty pointless. Especially when you start hearing about how many plastic straws we use every day. It’s more than 500 million, which would fill 17 school buses. That’s every day. The very first plastic straw you ever used is still somewhere on this planet. I think it’s crazy! But plastic never breaks down, it only breaks up, into smaller microplastics, and these microplastics go into the water all over the world. But not just the oceans. It’s also affecting our drinking water. This means we are drinking plastic.
How many schools/organisations/cafes have taken the Straw No More pledge?
We are just finishing up the school year now, but by the time the new school year starts again in January 2018, we’ll have 100 schools joining the Straw No More Pledge. That’s about 80,000 kids not using straws with their lunch every day.
What do you do to educate other people about the issue?
I just keep talking to people. I tell them all the things I’ve learned, and tell them about all the alternatives. There’s a really cool straw that is being used in Bali now that is made of cornstarch. You can’t even tell that it’s not plastic. I’d love to see those type of changes made to every restaurant and cafe across the world.
If you could change anything in the world, what would you change?
There’s a couple of things, but it all sort of comes back to the damage that we seem to be doing to the planet. It seems pretty crazy because we humans can’t live anywhere else. It’s not like we can just get in a spaceship and go to Mars. This is the only planet we can live on, and I’d like to see people taking better care of it.