Anne Horrigan Geary: Neither the first nor the last straw – Brattleboro Reformer

By Anne Horrigan Geary

Shopping for Christmas gifts is a great learning experience. Who knew you could buy a drinking straw for $25? It is made of metal and comes with its own cleaning tool. I think for that price it should click its heels and sing “Rule, Britannia.”

I do understand the desire to reduce plastic waste. I’m totally behind the concept of “reduce, reuse, recycle”, but I’m not sure metal straws will save the planet. First of all, I don’t think everyone will follow proper hygiene protocols.

There will be unwashed straws, which could spread disease. There will be forgotten straws that will prompt more spending. How many straws will roll off the counter, continue traveling across the floor and become lodged under the refrigerator (where all lost objects go to die)?

I’m not sure sipping my iced tea through a metal straw will improve the taste of my drink. The straw will be chilled by the ice and probably make my teeth hurt. Personally, I eschew all straws because I enjoy drinking my beverages without any intermediary gadgets in the way.

I gave them up when I noticed that drinking fizzy sodas through straws made the bubbles go directly into my stomach and cause unnecessary burping. Gastric reflux is never a good thing, and mine was exacerbated by fizzy drinks, so I now skip the straws and the soda. Drinking water through a straw seems like a totally over-engineered act. I like my water from the tap, neat — no ice, no lemon wedge, no straw of any material.

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I can’t decide what the reasoning is behind the local options for water in a restaurant. Sometimes, there is an attractive bottle with chilled water on the table; sometimes there is a pitcher and a pourer on hand. When requesting water of a server, the guest is often specific about his or her needs regarding ice, lemon or a straw. When I sit down for a restaurant experience, I can skip the water entirely, and move right along to the spirited drinks. And please do not put a straw or drink stirrer in my cocktail or a plastic toothpick pierced with some limp fruit or vegetable.

I have seen all the horrible photos of plastic waste floating in the ocean and discovered inside deceased marine mammals. Plastic six-pack rings created especially insidious traps for wildlife. I’m glad consumers are becoming more aware of their responsibility for disposing of plastic waste in earth-friendly ways, but I like the idea of limiting it in the first place as a more responsible choice.

Recently, I’ve been reading about the drinkers who object to paper straws. Some say the paper has a taste. Others complain about its durability. For the length of time it takes to consume a drink and the number of times one’s lips touch the paper, I think the complainers should just — pardon the pun — suck it up and do something worthwhile to save the planet.

Perhaps I should invent a new product and look for funding on “Shark Tank.” The world could certainly use senior sippy cups. A whole industry could grow up around their manufacture and sale. Groups could grow and process a plant-based fiber, make it into cups, decorate them with chic designs or sports’ logos, and sell them for a third of the price of metal straws. Another group could compost the used sippys, and the compost would eventually be used to grow new plants.

Or, in addition to meatless Mondays to cut the use of expensive (and possibly unhealthy) meat, we could institute strawless Saturdays. Bars and restaurants could jump on the straw wagon, and offer to donate their cost savings to charity. Drinkers could relearn how to place the rim of a glass against their lips and gently allow the liquid to pass into their mouths. After all, if a 3-year-old can do it, so can you.

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Berkshire Eagle contributor. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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