Jessica Hare: The Straw Saga continues

As it turns out, cutting plastic straws out of my life hasn’t been easy. The trouble I had eliminating plastic bags looks like nothing compared to the straws. I think it comes down to this: I know, almost all of the time, when I will be presented with a plastic bag and I can either prepare by bringing my own bag or simply ask for no bag and carry my items myself. It is altogether more difficult to be on the lookout for straws and it is much more unclear when you should declare your refusal of a straw. I can see where this might seem a little crazy, but when you send a month paying attention to single use straws and try to develop a system for eliminating them, you’ll see what a wily and unpredictable foe you’re facing.

For starters, every restaurant seems to have a different method for how they present you with a straw. Sometimes, you’re relaxed, thinking “I’ll just refuse one when they bring it to the table” and then BAM, it shows up, already in your drink. Sometimes there’s even two of them in there. It is unclear. When do I announce that I don’t want a straw? Who do I tell? I try to avoid making a big deal about it. I don’t want to have to take someone aside and whisper my distaste for straws like I’m informing the restaurant that I have a deadly allergy to shellfish.

The second issue that makes straw refusal more difficult than bag refusal is that once the straw is in your drink there’s no going back. What’s done is done. If I miss my window to tell the checker that I don’t want a bag at a grocery store, they can take my item out of the bag. When I miss the window at a restaurant, that straw is wasted forever. What about when the waiter just does the thing when they chuck about 27 of them on the table when the bring the waters? What happens to the unused ones? How do I save them?

The last issue is that I do feel a degree of silliness using my reusable straws when I’m still accepting a plastic cup. And maybe that’s the point. The more I think about (and borderline obsess) over my straw use, the more I’ll realize all of the steps that I can take to slowly eliminate single use plastic from my life.

Through my careful observation of straw usage over the last month, I’ve noted that perhaps the best method for eliminating them may actually lie in the hands of the restaurants. Five simple words: “Would you like a straw?” Asking patrons if they would like a straw would allow everyone the chance to refuse or accept a straw and cut down on the amount of straws the restaurant has to buy. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily work to push the solution off onto someone else and out of my control. I’ll keep doing my best and refuse straws whenever I can despite the hazard of seeming a little crazy.