Some local businesses are seeing a major drop in the use of disposable plastic straws after a simple change in policy.
According to National Geographic, the world's oceans are filled with 18 billion pounds of plastic each year, which can prove deadly to marine wildlife. An estimated 100 million marine animals die due to plastic pollution each year. The period in which plastics break down can be anywhere between 450 years to indefinite.
Currently, a mass of swirling plastic trash dubbed the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" has reached a size comparable to two times the size of Texas.
A recent target by environmental advocates has been disposable plastic straws, with the US going though an average of 500 million each day.
It can be difficult to avoid single-use plastic items altogether but some La Crosse businesses like The Crow say they have found a way to make an impact.
"We saw an opportunity to get some straws out of our garbage cans by simply offering them on request," manager Brian Doermann said.
By making that change, some were able to cut down their disposable plastic straw use by 50% or more just by making it less readily available.
Java Vino joined the One Less Straw campaign 6 months prior.
"When you automatically put [straws] out on their table they're like oh it's in front of me, I might as well use it," associate manager Maria Horn said. "Since we switched, the amount of straws that we have reduced is in the thousands."
Horn said in looking to reduce their waste, they also saved some money.
"We would place our order for straws about every week or every other week," she said. "That has been reduced three quarters."
For those out there wanting to take it a step further, some now offer more durable and reusable options.
"We currently carry silicone, stainless steel, glass options and also bamboo," Full Circle Boutique owner Joshua Larson said. "Cutting out single use plastic waste in any capacity is good in the long term."
Other businesses like Global Grounds, the Root Note, The Mint, State Room, Animal House, Stolpa's Stein Haus and the Sports Hub have implemented policies of their own trying to curb the use of plastic straws.
Admittedly, businesses said they know this small change on it's own won't save the oceans or waterways, but given their ease with implementing an "upon request" policy for single-use plastic straws, they are hoping more catch on to give the impact greater significance. A number of municipalities in the US have considered altogether bans on plastic straws and bags. That will likely not happen in La Crosse due to state law enacted in 2016 prohibiting such regulations.