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What It’s Like to Carry Around a Reusable Straw

How early adopters are faring in the war against plastic straws

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María Quevedo

Cardi B produced the song of the summer, pickle might be the flavor of moment, and without a doubt ending plastic straw use is the cause of summer 2018. Celebrities made a fuss, but it wasn’t until Starbucks announced it would nix straws from its stores that the movement really caught on.

Now that plastic straws seem to be going the way of the printed newspaper, how will cold brew fans sip their iced coffee? Those joining the cause are picking up paper, glass, silicone, and (primarily) metal sippers instead. Here’s how early adopters are faring in this new, fledgling war against plastic straws.


María Quevedo

VERUSKA CARBALLO FONTEVECCHIA
INTERN, EATER

Where did you get your non-plastic straw from? How much was it?
Amazon. It was $9 for a pack of eight metal straws and two cleaning brushes.

Why did you decide to order it?
Around 6 weeks ago, my very close friend started working at a company called Parley for the Oceans which develops creative solutions to combat plastic pollution in oceans. Because of her new job, she told me about the campaign to stop the use of plastic straws.

After our conversation I did some research of my own. I was mainly trying to understand why straws and not other plastic products. And it seems like one of the reasons why environmental activists chose to focus on straws was because it’s one item people in America use almost daily, but because of its small size, it’s relatively easy to phase out with minimal changes to their daily lifestyle.

After that, I decided to try it out, and being very competitive, I took it as a challenge. I felt like using a plastic straw would be losing. Since I got my metal straw a month ago, I have not touched a plastic one. After a week of seamlessly using the metal version I realized how easy it was to switch.

So you have a little cleaner brush for it, too. How do you clean it?
Yes. Cleaning is relatively easy, depending on what you drink. I only drink black coffee, so generally a quick rinse in the kitchen, or a restroom if I’m on the move, will do. Once I get home at the end of the day I will clean it more thoroughly with the spool-y brush that came with it when I bought the straws. I imagine the maintenance would be harder if you used it to drink things like a smoothie, or any coffee with milk.

How long have you been using it?
About two months. But now more often I just get my drink without a lid.

Where do you keep it? Do you carry it around with you?
I usually just carry the straw in my backpack or bag, I’m not a germaphobe by any means so I don’t need to have it in its own case. I just throw it in there and go on with my day. I have left it at home sometimes. When this happens, I just don’t use a straw at all. Now I realize how easy it is to drink my iced coffee without a lid and I feel almost dumb that for so long I felt like I absolutely needed it.

When do you use it?
When I get cold brew or iced black coffee.

Have people commented on your use of it? What have they said?
Not many, no.

Do you also use a reusable cup for coffee drinks?
Yes, unless I forget it.


Dan Geneen

CAROLINE VITALE
LIBRARIAN

Where did you get your non-plastic straw from? How much was it?
I got it on Amazon. So... it’s not like the way I ordered it is super duper sustainable. It was around $15 for a set.

Why did you decide to order it?
So this past fall, I was in library school — I just finished — so I was getting a Master’s in Information Science. And one of my classmates did a zero-waste thing. And we had an assignment in that class where we had to teach the class something we were really good at. And so she taught the class about zero waste. And that inspired me to... just be much more mindful of single-use things, and try not to use them. And so I really liked the metal straw idea, because it was so easy. It just fit in my bag. And so I bought it when it got warm and became iced tea season.

Do you have a little cleaner brush for it? How do you clean it?
Yeah, and I actually ordered extra cleaner brushes so I could have one that lived at home and one that lived at my office.

How long have you been using it?
A couple of months.

Where do you keep it? Do you carry it around with you?
With me, in my bag. My mom made me a little slipcase for my straw out of ribbon and it is very cute and takes up much less space in my bag than a pencil case which is I think what a lot of people use.

When do you use it?
Whenever I get any kind of drink that would require a straw, I guess. So if I get an iced tea on the way to work in the morning... I have an exactly 12-ounce water bottle, which is like a small anywhere you go. So they put [the iced tea] in my water bottle usually. And then I can stick my straw in and still sort of walk and drink. And I also get smoothies near my office sometimes just from smoothie carts. And so then I can’t get them to put it in my water bottle. It’s too stressful, I think. So I use my reusable straw then.

Yeah, I mean I think what’s valuable about it that hasn’t really been, I haven’t seen in any of the media coverage, is that it gets us to think about how much we throw away, how many things are disposable. And I’ve started, in my kitchen, I try not to use Saran wrap or Ziploc bags. Breaking up with Ziploc bags is super hard. I have not made it to that one. But I ... I want to be clear that I do not think this is a panacea for anything. If I could take one consumer product out of the market to do something good for the environment, it would be cars, not straws.

Have people commented on your use of it? What have they said?
I only know one other person who I found out that she already used one. But everybody I’ve talked to about it, everyone who sees it, has been really interested. I gave one to my sister... My mom has decided that she’s going to start using one, so she got one and gave one to her friend. I’ve definitely been evangelizing for it, just because I also really like drinking out of the metal straw. I like how cold it gets.

Do you also use a reusable cup for coffee drinks?
Yes.


RACHEL H. R. HUNNICUTT
STUDENT, CATALOGUER COOPER HEWITT, SMITHSONIAN DESIGN MUSEUM

Where did you get your non-plastic straw from?
Amazon. It was one of the better reviewed sets of stainless steel straws (although I’m sure they’re all about the same). I know Amazon isn’t necessarily the most ethical choice but it makes sense cost- and time-wise

Why did you decide to order it?
I haven’t even seen the turtle video, but I know it’s out there. I have, however, seen a number of videos and images of ocean waves covered in plastic. I figure we have to start somewhere and this is a very easy way to reduce plastic consumption and waste, and at the same time it’s also a very visible statement.

Also, as a design history student, I’ve studied historic package design and have a relatively clear picture of our increasing package/plastic waste and its environmental repercussions. Again, we have to start somewhere.

Do you have a little cleaner brush for it? How do you clean it?
Yes! A lil’ brush came with the set. I typically use a vinegar mixture to clean initially, and then Mrs. Meyer dish soap and the brush to wrap things up.

Where do you keep it?
I keep the set in my silverware drawer and typically one on my person in what I hope is a relatively clean part of whatever bag I’m carrying.

When do you use it?
I keep at least one in my bag in case I pick up an iced coffee. I don’t mind reusing after a cursory rinse in whatever sink is handy.

Have people commented on your use of it?
Not yet, but I have seen some glances.

Do you also use a reusable cup for coffee drinks?
I try my best but when you get down to it, it’s just not always convenient to carry a reusable cup around with you (in addition to a more essential reusable water bottle, especially). The straw is a much simpler and smaller part of a sustainable toolkit. Plus increasingly I’m seeing compostable, vegetable-based plastic cups (or at the very least recyclable, I like straws).


ERIN BOYLE
LIFESTYLE BLOGGER, READING MY TEA LEAVES

Where did you get your non-plastic straw from? How much was it?
I bought my first non-plastic straw — a glass one — from Glass Dharma in 2009. It cost $7. I still have it, but since having kids, I’ve added a few stainless steel straws to our collection, purchased from Amazon.

Why did you decide to order it?
I got into the habit of drinking morning smoothies, and found that they were a little more enjoyable slurped from a straw. I had recently moved into my first adult apartment and I was committed to buying as little new plastic to outfit the place as possible. So instead of buying a box of plastic straws to use — and throw away — at home, I opted for a reusable glass one.

Do you have a little cleaner brush for it? How do you clean it?
Yeah! If we’re drinking smoothies I just make sure to wash our straws right away so they don’t get gunked up. It’s honestly a total non-issue.

Where do you keep it? Do you carry it around with you?
Our family keeps our straws in a glass jar in our kitchen cabinet (now I’ve got two kids on a morning smoothie kick along with me). When I was working from cafés and drinking lots of iced coffee, I used to carry a straw around with me, but these days I usually just go without!

When do you use it?
Still most typically at home for smoothies! When I’m out I most often just ask to have my drink served without a straw.

Have people commented on your use of it? What have they said?
Maybe it’s a New York City thing, but no one’s ever really batted an eye when I’ve used my straw out and about. It’s slightly more typical for folks to be surprised when we let them know that our kids don’t need straws or plastic cups at restaurants.

Do you also use a reusable cup for coffee drinks?
I have an insulated Klean Kanteen water bottle that I use for water and on-the-go coffees (hot or cold). If I don’t have it with me, I ask for my coffee to stay and drink from a glass. If the cafe doesn’t have reusable mugs or glasses, I skip the coffee.


Helen Baldus

HELEN BALDUS
PR CONSULTANT

Where did you get your non-plastic straw from? How much was it, and why did you decide to order it?
Well, the actual purchase was a little bit just kind of impromptu. Obviously I’ve been reading about the proposed ban in New York and seeing the news of what’s going on in Seattle and reading about how these single-use plastic straws are really bad for the environment, for the oceans and turtles… I make a real effort to not use plastic bags, I try to carry a reusable bag... That’s something I’ve made part of my regular routine.

So, the other day I was at my regular coffee shop, Roots Cafe in Brooklyn. I was picking up coffee beans and a friend of mine asked me to get her an iced coffee and I saw, at the coffee shop, they have like a cup with the metal straws right there. And I was like you know what, I’m going to get one. So, it just kind of happened. It was $1.50.

Do you have a little cleaner brush for it? How do you clean it?
Yes. Also got this at the coffee shop. The little cleaner was .50 cents.

How long have you been using it?
Only a few days.

Where do you keep it? Do you carry it around with you?
I put it in a little Ziploc, and I’ve been carrying it around in my purse.

When do you use it?
Well it’s only been a few days but it’s funny, I was at a bar and had a few drinks with some friends on Saturday and I ordered water, seltzer water. And I took out my straw and used it at the restaurant, at the bar.

Have people commented on your use of it? What have they said?
No. I’ve been out with my sister and her boyfriend and they know I’m doing this so they don’t comment on it. [Laughs] I was at the farmer’s market today and I had my iced coffee in a bottle jar and I had my metal straw and I was like I’m very, very hip right now, with my bottle jar and my metal straw.

I just have to remind myself that I have it with me. I just think not enough people really care. I mean look at how many people still do the plastic bag. It’s gonna take awareness and caring. I think if you sit down with someone and say, “Do you care about the environment? Do you care about wildlife, the health and wellbeing of wildlife? Do you care about that we’re destroying our environment?” I think people would say, “Yes.” But, when it gets in the way of their daily activities, that’s another issue.

Do you also use a reusable cup for coffee drinks?
Usually, yes.


Daniela Galarza
Rebecca Jennings

REBECCA JENNINGS
PRODUCER, RACKED.COM

Where did you get your non-plastic straw from? How much was it?
I bought these silicone straws on Amazon. The pack of 8 straws and the cleaning brush was $9.

Why did you decide to order it?
I was actually writing an article for Racked on how metal straws were suddenly becoming this very cool-girl, Instagrammy phenomenon. I did a lot of research on the straw ban and the backlash, and basically learned that banning straws themselves won’t really do all that much good for the environment, and then there’s the fact that many, many people rely on the bendiness of plastic straws in order to drink. My reasons for buying mine, however, were a lot more selfish — I love straws in general (I am a human being with a mouth!) and I also deeply enjoy biting on things. Biting on metal did not sound very fun. Biting on silicone is one of the most enjoyable activities I can possibly think of, and now I get to do it at my desk constantly.

I also bought this specific pack because they’re actually super cute — millennial pink! millennial mint!

Do you have a little cleaner brush for it? How do you clean it?
I do have a little cleaner brush for it, but I’ve actually never used it. If I’m just using them for water I’ll just rinse them a bit, but if it’s for iced coffee or juice I’ll throw them in the dishwasher.

How long have you been using it?
I’ve only had mine for like, three weeks, actually. But I’m a fan! I’ll keep ‘em around.

Where do you keep it? Do you carry it around with you?
I keep mine mostly at my desk, though I have one at home. I’m too scared to carry one around in my purse because my purse is disgusting.

When do you use it?
I usually use them when I’m drinking water or iced coffee at my desk. Even when there’s no actual drink to drink and I’m just trying to think of how to write a sentence that isn’t terrible, I’ll just bite on it constantly.

Have people commented on your use of it? What have they said?
Yes! Our office assistant was so excited when she saw them on my desk that I gave her two of them. Someone also gave me a metal straw in exchange for one of mine. Are reusable straws the new trading cards?! I think they’re just gimmicky enough that it’s easy to spark a conversation about them with a stranger, which is fun.

Do you also use a reusable cup for coffee drinks?
I don’t. I should.

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