The Last Straw

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1:1 and Veronica have many things in common. One is realizing that plastic drinking straws are one easy waste product that we can all reduce. Read more. 

When I first heard about The 1:1 Movement’s Last Straw Campaign, which asks restaurants to only provide straws to customers upon request, I thought, “oh, that’s so easy! But… will it actually make a difference?” The answer, I found out, is a resounding, “yes!” Say a restaurant sees 100 customers a day and 50 people ask for a straw. A single restaurant would save 350 straws per week, and 18,200 straws per year! So far, The Last Straw Campaign has 60 restaurants on board, which saves over ONE MILLION straws each year (1,019,200).

All unnecessary waste is bad, but straw waste is especially irksome. Straws are only used once for fifteen minutes (and then there are all the refill straws!), tossed in a trash bin, then they’re transported in a big truck to a landfill where they sit forever. Although the material could be recycled, most municipal services do not invest in recycling them. This is because recycling services often run operations by weight, and straws (and plastic bags) are so light. Don’t despair though! The solution is easy—reduce our consumption.

Often, we immediately jump to recycle and pat ourselves on the back for being awesome (which we are) and forget that the first two R’s are reduce and reuse. In most cases, the best option is to reduce, so just ask for no straw! Another alternative is to use reusable straws made of glass, bamboo or aluminum.

As individuals, we probably don’t carry around straws all the time for our drinks. The big change agents for this issue are restaurants and bars. By only providing straws to customers upon request, food service establishments can make a big difference by changing the default choice from opt-out to opt-in. Not only do restaurants save some money not having to purchase them or pay for their disposal, but they also show customers an effort to be environmentally conscious.

The 1:1 Movement found that when customers are given a drink without a straw and asked to report what is different, no one says there’s no straw. The Last Straw is not trying to ban all straws forever and for good, but to be smart about reducing waste where customers would not otherwise notice.

The best part about The Last Straw Campaign is that it’s so simple! It is an environmental action that everyone can do and it shows that conservation can be easy and non-aggressive. One less straw used equals one less unsightly thing that could end up on our beautiful San Diego beaches. The Last Straw Campaign is not an after-the-fact remedy. It prevents the problem in the first place by encouraging mindful choices. And it changes the status quo in an area where many people may be apathetic.

Inefficient systems may persist for a number of reasons, but in this case, the change is easy and small. Although it doesn’t seem like a big deal from an individual perspective, like any other conservation action, it is the accumulation of individual actions that effects positive change for people, planet, and profit. Straws are certainly not the biggest source of plastic waste, but if it’s so easy to reduce, why not?

If you’re gonna use straws though, maybe you can reuse them to make one of these funny chandeliers. At least they have a greater lifespan!

Check out some additional tips on how to reduce other forms of plastic waste.

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