Travel

It's the last straw at Maumee Bay State Park Lodge in Ohio and other Xanterra properties

Gazing out at Lake Erie, I was inspired to order a fresh, fried perch sandwich for lunch one recent day at Water’s Edge restaurant in Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center near Toledo.

But when I looked around for a straw to dip into my soft drink, I couldn’t find one. I figured my server simply forgot to bring it to the table and I drank my beverage without one, no problem.

Well, it turns out that they served the last straw this spring at Maumee Bay Lodge and several other Ohio State Park Lodges, joining Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rushmore, Grand Canyon South Rim, Zion Lodge and other properties operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

It’s part of the company’s  ‘Choose to be Straw Free’ national sustainability initiative inspired by Milo Cress, an 11-year-old environmentalist in Colorado, who discovered that vast quantities of discarded plastic drinking straws wind up in landfills and, even worse, threaten seabirds, dolphins and whales.

The numbers are staggering: More than 500 million plastic straws are discarded every day, enough to fill 46,400 large school buses per year, according to a placard I found on another table in the Maumee Bay Lodge restaurant.

And most of these straws, whether used or unused, end up among the millions of tons of trash floating in the oceans, according to Xanterra’s website, www.choosetobestrawfree.com.  It goes on to say that all those straws contribute to an estimated more than one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals ingesting plastic.

The poor creatures.

Of course, it’s not a problem if you want to sip your beverage with a straw, a at Xanterra spokesperson says. It’s always an option, it’s just that straws no longer are offered automatically. All you have to do is request one.

As Milo has said, “I’m not out to ban plastic straws. Just cut back on them. Way back, if possible.”  (You can check out his website at www.bestrawfree.org).

The last straw sounds like a sensible option to me.

What do you think?

Susan R. Pollack
Globetrotting journalist and former Detroit News staff writer Susan R. Pollack has covered travel since 1985, visiting scores of countries on five continents, 47 states, six Canadian provinces and hundreds of cities, islands and outposts along the way. From Alaska, the Galapagos and New Zealand to Tasmania, Thailand and Wales, she has suffered the occasional lost luggage, jetlag and Montezuma’s revenge but still delights in sharing travel news and adventures with readers. In addition to The Detroit News, her award-winning stories have appeared in major newspapers including the Dallas Morning News, Toronto Star, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Chicago Sun Times; Midwest Living, Long Weekends, Hour Detroit, Michigan Meetings + Events and X-ology magazines, travelingmom.com and in several books, including "Rand McNally 2008 Ultimate NASCAR Road Trip Guide."