Guest Blog Feature: Sydney Bitar, the 2019 Teen Miss Great Lakes

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Hi everyone, I’m Sydney Bitar, the 2019 Teen Miss Great Lakes with the Miss Earth USA pageant and I’m honored to share more about myself and my platform.

What is a platform in pageantry? A pageant platform is a cause that the delegate chooses to volunteer their time to, either raising awareness about the issue, raising money for a cause or implementing a program to address the problem. All delegates within the Miss Earth USA system have environmental platforms, meaning we are all working to protect our environment in some way.  

I grew up loving straws and as a child I was enchanted by the multitude of shapes and colors available. As I got older, I learned how they can harm our environment, drinking water and marine life.  And after watching the “STRAWS” documentary, I knew that advocating for the reduction of plastic straws would be my platform.

Why are straws bad for our environment?  Scientists estimate that there are nearly 7.5 million plastic straws lying around America’s shorelines which means 437 million to 8.3 billion plastic straws are on the entire world’s coastlines. Plastic straws are particularly harmful to our marine environment because they can be mistaken for food, which can choke and kill many marine animals.

Although plastic straws could be recycled, most recycling facilities do not accept plastic straws. Straws are small and flexible, and can fall between the cracks or get stuck in the recycle machinery. Therefore, they usually do not get recycled, and end up back in the trash and in landfills. 

Not everyone is aware of the potential damage straws can have on our environment so I take every chance I can get to initiate conversations about plastic straw alternatives. I carry “restaurant cards” which I leave behind with restaurant managers or service staff while dining out which encouraging the restaurants to offer plastic straws only upon request.

I recently purchased a license to screen the award -winning documentary “STRAW” and use every opportunity I can to hold a screening.  One of the most memorable moments from the STRAWS documentary is video footage of the sea turtle that has become the “face” of the “Skip the Straw” movement.  

By now, more than 6 million people have watched the video of two researchers removing a 4 -inch plastic straw from his nostril. The plastic was lodged in the turtle’s nasal cavity reaching down into his throat inhibiting his breathing and sense of smell. The researchers believe that the turtle mistook the straw for food and after swallowing it they think the turtle tried to regurgitate the straw and it got lodged in its nasal passages.

I hope I’ve convinced you that we can all easily make small changes that add up to a big impact on the environment.   I encourage you to skip the straw or use a sustainable alternative, like me.

Follow my journey to the national Teen Miss Earth USA pageant July 1, 2019: 

Learn more about the STRAWS Documentary: