Saturday, September 24, 2011

Refuse the straw

This is my rant about plastic straws.

We went out to dinner last night and had a really unhappy waitress who let it affect her performance as a server. Being in customer service, I can see this from a mile away... and it's always too bad. Regardless, she continually forgot our request for no plastic straws for each drink that she brought to us. Look, I understand that when you are used to a certain norm, it can be irritating when customers like us come along and ask for something different, something that takes a tiny bit more effort to satisfy them. But seriously, it's just a stinkin disposable straw. We are saving you a step even.

But I digress.

The real questions are - why do people feel like they need a straw? What did we do before straws existed? Who decided that sucking was better than sipping? I understand that there are some people who might have a handicap where straws make life much easier for them, and I think those people should use straws... but the rest of us?

Here is a little bit of background on how straws came about and how they are made, if anyone is curious.

I read somewhere that straws were the most thrown away disposable item. Since I can't remember where I read that, I can't stand behind it... but as I look around at work and at restaurants, I can see how this might be true. Sometimes when I ask for no straw and the drink shows up with the straw, the server will say "oops, sorry" and remove the straw and throw it away. Talk about defeating the purpose.

Here is something that I took from the Sustainability Association of Hawaii, just to simplify the issue:

"Straws are not only made of plastic, a petroleum-based byproduct, but they are also intended for single use consumption, an extremely wasteful habit.

Think about how many fast food restaurants pop a plastic straw into your drink or bag every single day. Typically, you use it once and toss it in the garbage 20 minutes later. Do this twice a day and you use 7,300 plastic straws in a decade!

Let’s put it into perspective: the manufactured plastic straw comes in a paper wrapper from a box inside a bigger box that was unloaded from a truck that was taken off a ship that traveled from faraway lands from a factory that created pollutants to continue making more straws for disposable use.

Eliminating straws saves on:

- Energy in the production process.

- Carbon emissions during its transportation.

- Waste in the disposal process.

- Toxic Leaching from polypropylene plastic."

There are some fine alternatives to using a disposable plastic straw if you still feel like you love sipping on a straw (it's ok to feel this way by the way):

Glass Dharma makes reusable glass straws that I've only heard great things about... but I personally feel like glass straws in this house wouldn't be super smart.

I just came across these cool bamboo straws made by Kaboodle.

But my favorite are the stainless steel straws that my sister in law got us for Christmas. In fact, I think I just made the decision to start carrying one around with me for my youngest so that he doesn't feel straw deprived when we are out to eat.

Here's the things guys: the reason people feel put out by a request like "no straw please" is because they aren't used to hearing it. Even the most environmentally conscious people that I know don't bother with such a small thing like refusing a straw before it even arrives. But what if we all started doing this? Wouldn't it be great if it became common enough that a server would actually start asking people first if they wanted straws instead of automatically serving drinks with them in it? And then imagine that someday everybody would pause and think before automatically handing out anything disposable...

It's a small thing, I know... but it's yet another step in the right direction.

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