MARQUETTE — Graveraet Elementary School will soon be making the switch from plastic straws to metal ones. It’s all thanks to third grade student Anton Reinaas.
Anton says something came to him that pushed him to research how plastic pollution affects the environment, particularly the Great Lakes. He had seen commercials on television about recycling and taking care of the planet, and he wanted to do his part to help.
“I hate how all the plastic straws are wrecking the environment and all the animals are getting hurt on the plastic,” Anton said.
Anton went to school one day and approached Principal Sarah Kemppainen about swapping out the school cafeteria’s disposable plastic straws for reusable metal ones. Principal Kemppainen thought it was a great idea, so he Anton took the idea to his lunch lady, Jodi Michael. Together, they took a look at just how much plastic the school was using each day.
“We calculated that we go through about 250 straws a day,” said Michael. “So over the course of the year, 180 plus days of school, it’ll really add up.”
From there, Anton presented his idea—now called “The Reinaas Project”—to the Graveraet Parent Association, who gave their full support.
“I asked them if they could help us on it and told them about it, and they accepted it,” said Anton.
Anton is certainly younger than most individuals presenting initiatives to help protect the environment. Principal Kemppainen says that seeing such passion for a cause in a student is exciting—and something Gravaraet staff wants to encourage.
“I just think it’s amazing that Anton has a conscious awareness of plastic pollution and a love and concern for the environment,” said Principal Kemppainen. “22 million pounds of plastic is floating around in our Great Lakes, and this is research that he did on his own. And to me and to our staff here at the school, when a student takes on a concern and brings it forward, we really want to support them.”
Outside organizations have reached out to the school to commend Anton for his efforts and to speak with his class about recycling beyond the cafeteria. Anton also is set to speak at an upcoming assembly, where he will present his idea to the entire student body and explain why it’s so important.
Principal Kemppainen says Anton’s actions prove that one child can make a difference. She and Anton hope this project will have an influence on the community inside these halls, and on the community outside.
“One small idea from one amazing child—one amazing guy in my school—has had this tremendous ripple effect that we hope is widespread through our district, maybe next year or the year after,” Principal Kemppainen said. “The power of one idea is changing our world, and we love that.”
Graveraet is eagerly awaiting the arrival of their new metal straws, and they’re excited to officially roll out The Reinaas Project.