Disney's plastic straw ban kind of sucks. Here are 4 better ideas.

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images.

The Walt Disney Company is the latest company to hop on the plastic straw-free bandwagon.

Joining Starbucks and Marriott, Disney has said it will eliminate plastic straws, stirrers, and cups in its theme parks, cruise ships, and stores. The company said it will start phasing out the products by mid-2019 and expects to save 175 million straws and 13 million stirrers every year.

But here's the thing: There are major drawbacks to a total plastic straw ban.


First of all, straws don't really account for a large percentage of plastic waste. There are other items that cause way more harm to the environment: fishing nets, shopping bags, bottle caps, balloons, cigarette butts, and food wrappers, just to name a few.

But more importantly, it's actually critically important for disabled people to have access to single-use, flexible plastic straws. (Read why here.)

For a company that's known to foster inclusivity, accessibility, and creative imagination, a total plastic straw ban is a pretty tactless move — especially since there's so much else Disney can do.

Some consider Disney's decision to ban straws hypocritical considering that some water rollercoasters at its theme parks offer plastic bags for riders to put their personal belongings in.

There are plenty of other impactful ways Disney can reduce plastic waste without negatively affecting disabled people.

1. There's no reason to ban plastic straws completely when Disney could just cut down on their use.

The company could order fewer straws and instead of handing them out to every customer by default, provide straws to those who ask for them.

2. There are many things Disney could ban instead of straws.

Many of the other plastic items found at Disney theme parks are far more harmful to the environment than single-use straws. Instead of straws, Disney could ban plastic utensils — one of the most common items found in California landfills — from their establishments and replace them with alternatives that are either reusable or compostable.

3. Disney could set up lockers instead of handing out plastic bags for riders to stash their personal belongings in.

Disney recently announced that Ziploc is the new official sponsor of Splash Mountain, which can seat up to 1,500 riders per hour, as well as Epcot's Kidcot Fun Stops. That's a lot of bags — and a lot of harm to the ocean. Plastic bags are also a land hazard because they can take up to 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill.

4. Disney could halt the production and/or sales of balloons.

Balloon litter has tripled in the past three years, according to Balloon Blows, a nonprofit dedicated to balloon reduction. While some states have already introduced laws that prevent people from releasing balloons in the air, it's not a law that's easy to enforce. That's why one of the most effective ways Disney can help curb balloon littering is by simply refusing to sell them.

Make no mistake: Disney is taking commendable steps toward becoming a more environmentally conscious company.

But we can all work together to clean and save our planet without harming people in our own communities.

Heroes

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture