Can Switching to an Eco-Friendly Straw Actually Change Anything?

Why should you buy an eco-friendly straw?

By: Audrey Swanson

They seem to be cropping up at every café, coffee shop, and juice bar around the world. We’re talking paper and bamboo straws, and they seem to be taking over the beverage scene, with “save the turtles” undertones behind every purging of plastic straws. Some places have even completely eliminated straws. Eco-friendly or not, many locales now encourage a new BYO-metal-straw movement. Something that some people groan at, while others enthusiastically cheer for it.

Sure, paper straws sort of disintegrate in your mouth. And metal straws stuffed into purses for days at a time between use may not be the most sanitary of drinking options. And, it might feel a little crunchy-granola or insignificantly small… But do these plastic straw alternatives actually change anything for the health of our planet?

Celebrity yogi Tara Stiles says yes, they do. She says our society today is all about convenience, which has desensitized us to the way our actions and shortcut-mentalities influence our communities and the world. The “throwaway culture” that has become a norm is all about making life easier and faster, and it’s probably true that we’re all guilty of subscribing to it in some way or another.

Why We Need to Rethink How We Drink Our Daily Iced Americano

While straws seem like a small issue in the scheme of wasteful habits, they actually add up to something massive. Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day. Yup, you heard that right…every single day! That’s enough to completely fill up 125 school buses, according to Saveur. And most of those are no eco-friendly, and end up in oceans and landfills.

Even though straws aren’t the top contributor to plastic waste–in fact, plastic food wrappers, containers, plastic bottles and caps, and plastic bags all fall ahead of straws–they’re the most harmful to marine wildlife. Their size is so small and unassuming that people forget to recycle them. Or if they do, they get tossed out of the recycling sorter from their light weight.

They end up being disposed of most commonly as regular garbage. And when they get tossed in the ocean, fish and aquatic animals mistake them for food and attempt to ingest them. Plus, they add to the immense pollution of our oceans that harms wildlife and damages the environment. Can you see how something many of us don’t think twice about using with every smoothie or juice order can have a real ripple effect?

On average, people use an estimated 1.6 straws per day. If 25,000 individuals stopped using them, 5 million straws would be kept far away from the ocean. That makes the movement against straws seem much more approachable. If one just person at a time commits to nixing straws from their daily drinks.

The Eco-Friendly Takeaway

The best part about deciding to boycott plastic straws? You don’t actually need straws to drink anything. Yeah, some of us prefer them in our iced coffees or other cold beverages. But they aren’t a requirement to consuming drinks (what a relief!) That means being eco-friendly and helping our environment could be as easy as eliminating unnecessary utensils from your smoothie or iced coffee runs.

If you do want or need a straw for your next bevvy, try out the various options for harmless straws out there. Options include metal, glass, bamboo, paper, or cardboard. Even if it seems like an inconsequential change, you’re actually contributing to a major movement. And, that’s something to raise our (plastic straw-free) smoothie glass and cheers to.