Off-Third: The last straw: Dining hall paper straws turn students into climate deniers

Save the turtles — or don’t. Just give us our plastic straws back, climate-denying students say.


Kevin Wu

(Kevin Wu for WSN)

Naisha Roy, Deputy Opinion Editor

After spending months grappling with dysfunctional paper straws, some NYU students are rejecting the university’s sustainability measures — and the idea of climate change as a whole.

The university’s implementation of the compostable Grab & Go policy created excessive waste and an inconvenient dining experience, so students have developed a newfound hatred for sustainability. They decided to form the Torch the Earth club, advocating for more rigid plastic and polyurethane in the dining halls. The club’s logo is a take on NYU’s iconic torch, with planet Earth resting atop the flame.

“I joined TEC because I’m too tired to care about the turtles,” said one CAS first-year whose straw disintegrated into her Starbucks iced chai latte. “When I said I was going on a plant-based diet, I didn’t mean I wanted to eat paper.”

Other members are simply arguing that they deserve access to nonrenewable materials.

“Paper bags, paper straws, paper forks, what’s next? Paper chopsticks?” asked one of the club’s founders. “Plastic straws have character. They have durability. I’m pretty sure the United Nations considers them a human right.”

The group meets bi-weekly to discuss ways to deter the university from meeting its climate goals. They end each meeting with a bonfire of to-go bags from Upstein in hopes of releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

“Do you see any upset polar bears around?” asked the founder. “I don’t. This is New York City. Pollution’s kind of our thing.”

Besides paper straws, club members called out other inconvenient sustainability measures the university has introduced. They stated that the separate trash cans in each dining hall were too confusing to use, and that stalling the escalators in the Kimmel Center for University Life to save power was “not a slay.”

Another student recalled how her paper bag from Crave NYU fell apart in the middle of the street after a particularly rainy day.

The movement could spell bad news for the university, which is very vocal about sustainability — it even renovated Rubin Hall to meet passive energy housing standards. Other measures included giving every student a reusable NYU Eats bag that’s definitely not just collecting dust in a corner while removing plastic water bottles as a meal swipe option.

“The only thing keeping my faith in global warming intact is Rubin hall’s non-AC rooms in the beginning of the school year,” said one student. “It’s not NYU’s sustainable cutlery. I thought our slogan was ‘Go Violets,’ not ‘Go Green.’”

Some worry that the group’s positions on climate change could lead to a slippery slope in the adoption of other conspiracy theories. The club is already considering adopting the flat Earth theory into their repertoire in order to connect with a more diverse array of students.

“All I’m saying is that you shouldn’t have to worry about deforestation if you’re living in a concrete jungle,” concluded one student in the group. “I’m sure the penguins will figure it out.”

Off-Third is WSN’s satire column.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

Contact Naisha Roy at [email protected]