BEIRUT: Fifteen-year-old Aya Abu Alfa decided to kick start her 2019 on an environmental note.
With the aspiration of raising awareness on the environmental issues currently being faced by the country, Abu Alfa launched “Skip the Straw Lebanon.”
The tenth grader learned about the damages that plastic straws can cause at school. She was also inspired by a YouTube video of a woman narrating how she convinced the entire state of California to stop using plastic straws.
“I became determined to shed light on the plastic problem and help propel its solutions to the forefront of the Lebanese society. I decided to mark my start by focusing on plastic straws,” she told Annahar.
Skip the Straw Lebanon works with restaurants and cafés. It aims at convincing them to drop using plastic and start using eco-friendly and biodegradable paper straws.
Paper straws take around 2 to 6 weeks to fully decompose in comparison to the 200 years needed by plastic straws.
The replacement process begins with the efforts of contacting the restaurant and checking if they would be interested in swapping their plastic straws with paper straws.
If the suggestion gets accepted, Abu Alfa informs them where they can purchase these eco-friendly straws.
Additionally, Abu Alfa designs and supplies the restaurant with a “we skip the plastic straw” poster that they can hang on their front door.
“I hope the badge will become a noticeable feature among many restaurants and cafes in Lebanon,” Abu Alfa said.
Café Younes became the first resto-café to commit to the movement. Since June 29, the café has been offering drinks with paper straws instead of the traditional plastic straws.
“We are happy to be supporting the environmental Skip the Straw Lebanon campaign led by 15-year-old Aya Abu Alfa. In efforts to reduce plastic waste, we’re switching to paper straws!” Announced Café Younes on their Instagram page.
Alongside its offline presence, Skip the Straw Lebanon launched an online petition in February 2019 to completely ban plastic straws in Beirut.
The petition is targeted at the Minister of Environment Fady Jreissati, and the Lebanese Ministry of Industry. Up until July, the petition has gained 32,000 signatures.
“The rate at which the initiative grew clearly demonstrates the willingness of many members of the Lebanese society to eliminate plastic in Lebanon,” Abu Alfa said. “It will mark the type of change the world needs to see.”
Abu Alfa also raises awareness on her Instagram page “@skipthestraw_lebanon.”
The page does not only discuss plastic straws, but promotes the issue of climate change as a whole.
“Skip the Straw Lebanon’s online presence has significantly helped in advancing the campaign,” Abu Alfa said in response to the importance of its online presence. “It allowed me to easily raise awareness among a growing number of people and it brought me closer to many others who are also advocating for a similar change.”
Since its launch, Abu Alfa’s parents have been her number one supporters.
“As any parents, we are very proud of our daughter’s effort to safeguard the environment we live in,” expressed her father to Annahar. “More importantly, we urge all parents, teachers, and others to support their children’s initiatives. Although one action of one child may seem minor, when combined, those actions will evoke change and will help in raising mindful leaders and civically responsible persons for the future.”
As for her future plans, Abu Alfa will be pursuing studies in biology and mathematics and plans to specialize in plant biology and bioengineering to research and develop new forms of renewable energy.
“This is just the beginning; the scope of what I aspire to do in the future is much, much wider. Skip the Straw Lebanon is just how I’m starting,” Abu Alfa stated on social media.
Welcome to “Naya,” the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations. Naya Editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
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