Graphic by Juliette Baxter
In a world first, Greenpeace has pledged to thank Instagram influencers for their rapid reversal of global pollution. This motion was prompted by a record-breaking number of Instagram posts featuring attractive, young, white people with really good teeth posing on beaches, which somehow resulted in pollution being cleared from the oceans.
Bossy had the privilege of sitting down with Georgia Shaw (@GeorgiaIsHotStuff), a Canberra-based social media influencer and ANU student, over a smoothie at ANU Coffee Grounds yesterday after the Greenpeace announcement made headlines that morning. Although Georgia didn’t have her re-usable straw for the interview, she laughed it off and reminded us that “[the straw movement] is all about visibility anyway.”
When questioned on why she felt it necessary to constantly spam her friends’ Instagram feeds with countless posts sponsored by re-usable straw manufacturers, Georgia said that “even though I never really use straws except, like, when they get put in my Moose basics, I thought it was super important for my personal brand to carry re-usable ones with me at all times.”
We then asked about how she reacted to the release of Greenpeace’s groundbreaking statement. Georgia said she was “so thrilled,” as she realized that this kind of endorsement would “give my profile such insane traction!” She also added that the turtles would probably also be benefiting, but that she didn’t really know for sure yet and would have to read more Buzzfeed articles to find out.
Some backlash has been received in response to the Greenpeace/Insta-Influencers partnership, mainly coming from a small but vocal group of Instagram keep-cup promoters. One user, who requested to remain anonymous because their follower count has been dropping since the keep-cup trend lost its novelty in November 2017, bitterly remarked, “us keep-cuppers started this movement, and should be getting recognition for our hard work.”
Bossy notes that this was a brave comment to make considering that, although the keep-cup movement was the first mainstream attempt at tokenistic environmentalism, the straw-saga has now clearly outdone the original trend. At its peak, the #strawssuck hashtag garnered 12,000 more posts a day than the #keepyourcup hashtag ever did.
One of the mega-companies behind the re-usable straw business is Suck Me Off – an entrepreneurial venture by Mike Hall and Jacob Small. When asked about why they got into the market, Hall and Small said their motivation was the need for global-scale action to occur, the type that is best prompted by white men who know nothing of environmental conservation. “You know that one video that everyone shares that has the straw being pulled out of the turtle’s nose? Yeah, that really grossed me out, hey,” said Mike, “I needed that off my feed.”
Upon being pressed on the fact that other forms of plastic are much bigger contributors to pollution in oceans than straws, and the fact that their company manufactures straws in a factory that is powered by coal and doesn’t safely dispose of chemical waste, Ted became very defensive. “Yeah, but I mean, how could you make an appealing Insta on industrial waste? No one wants to see that.”
Though our interviewer politely tried to point out that plastic straws only account for 2000 kilograms of the 8 million tons of plastic waste entering the ocean annually, this was quickly dismissed as “not being the point.”
The full benefits of the straw-saga are yet to be uncovered, but at least we know a small group of people are benefiting from it financially. Now, that is something that all of us – and the turtles – should be celebrating.