As a new freshman at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I can attest to the fact that college students live off of coffee. Sitting in the Adele Hall Learning Commons on campus, I am almost convinced that caffeine rather than blood runs through my fellow students’ veins as I see most everyone with some sort of java drink in their hand. With a Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks at our fingertips and a Scooter’s around every corner, I would say our school is blessed to have such easy access to supply our addiction. Ever since entering college, I, too, have become a so-called “coffee-holic.”
￼But does our love for this drink justify the death of an innocent turtle, shark, whale, bird or any other living creature? The closing of a beautiful beach or the death of a coral reef? Countless animals, including our marine life and birds, are killed each year due to plastic debris in our rivers, streams and oceans. Every time we order a coffee, we become perpetrators of the plastic pollution issue by using one-time use cups and straws. That coffee cup we use for a mere 30 minutes will be discarded after its single service and become insignificant and forgotten. All of these plastic coffee cups and straws, seemingly irrelevant, can outlive us as they can take up to 400 years to degrade. Even then, through degrading, they will proceed to break up into tiny pieces called microplastics and float in our oceans, rivers and streams forever. These microplastics will then be ingested by fish and, through the consumption of marine life, enter into the human body as well.
￼You now know that microplastics can poison our diets and affect our bodies’ heath. If that does not give you enough reason to care about how our waste affects marine life, then you should also know that as our coffee cups and other single-use plastics are tossed into the garbage, we are stuck and remain in an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. This is a dangerous and careless state of mind to be in. Eventually, this trash we throw out will catch up to us, as beaches become tirelessly polluted and our oceans and seas become increasingly toxic. The medicine our society relies upon to help fight cancer, arthritis and other illnesses will be affected as they utilize precious natural ocean ingredients. Our economy will suffer as ocean-dependent businesses employ almost three million people. Ultimately, our overuse of plastic will affect all aspects of our lives.
As college students, we need to look out for our future health — physically, economically and socially. Don’t let what I said scare you into thinking your love for coffee needs to abruptly end in order to save the oceanic ecosystems. There are many ways in which we can help to reduce plastic without changing our day-to-day routines. Reusable cups are welcomed and encouraged at both Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. We can refuse plastic straws, use reusable bags when grocery shopping, use the recycling offered on campus and decline single-use plastics all together. UNL is very privileged and as a school of brilliant young students, we have the ability to influence others and help save our oceans and the wildlife that depends upon them.