When Chloe Mei Espinosa was 11 years old, she saw a video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nostril. “I felt heartbroken and confused,” she says. While researching how the straw wound up in the turtle’s nose, Chloe Mei learned that Americans use about 500 million plastic straws every day. Because plastic straws are too small to be recycled, many of them wind up in landfills. From there they often get washed into the ocean, where marine animals can accidentally swallow or inhale them.
Chloe Mei immediately vowed to stop using plastic straws. But she wanted to do more. She began a campaign to get local schools, hospitals, and businesses to stop offering plastic straws. She also began a YouTube channel called Skip the Plastic Straw with her sister, Ella Lin. On the channel, Chloe Mei and Ella Lin call themselves the Sustainable Sisters and offer tips about reducing plastic waste and protecting the environment.
To date, the Skip the Plastic Straw campaign has convinced 245 local schools and two local hospitals to remove plastic straws from their cafeterias. More than 2,000 people in Chloe Mei’s community have also taken her pledge to stop using plastic straws. Chloe Mei, who is now in 11th grade, estimates that this prevents 15 million straws from entering landfills each year. She says she hopes more people will be inspired to ditch their straws for good. “We all need to do our part to reduce our consumption of single-use plastics,” she says, “and plastic straws are an easy place to start.”