What started as a class project has grown into a schoolwide effort at Dublin's Eli Pinney Elementary School to support recycling and environmentally safe practices.

The goal? Considering different ways to reduce the use of plastic straws, which negatively impact marine life, said Principal Troy Ehrsam.

"Doing something little can make a big impact," he said.

During lunch, students will begin putting unused straws received as part of school lunch utensil packets in baskets, so the straws can be reused for art projects, Ehrsam said.

Moving forward, the culinary staff will look into ordering more environmentally friendly and easily biodegradable straws, Ehrsam said.

Students also suggested that utensil packets be discarded in favor of providing individual packets, so straws don't get wasted.

Fourth-graders gave presentations about the project to all grade levels during lunch periods Feb. 22, Ehrsam said.

The project began in the fourth-grade classrooms of Donna Johnson and Aleia Mackensen, he said, when students were learning about ways to help marine life.

Small groups of students became interested in ways they believed straws were harming the environment and then the entire class became involved.

Shirley Gui, a 10-year-old fourth-grader, said students started a Straw-Free Club. She and others made posters as part of the project.

Elizabeth Olmes, a 10-year-old fourth-grader, said they are making a difference and trying to improve life for marine animals. Plastic straws, she said, take a great deal of time to decompose.

"No one ever thinks about it," she said.