Hello, dear friends.
It’s still really hot. I live in an area known as a heat sink, and I definitely am feeling it. There’s lots of warm days, lots of swimming in the river, and lots of enjoying a refreshing after work beverage. At my place of employment we are big fans of our refreshing after work beverages. This post makes me realize how many Caesars I drink in the summer. Dear reader, I would appreciate it immensely if you would be so kind as to imagine that half of the straws described come from ginger ale or soda water.
This project is teaching me a lot of lessons. In some cases single use plastic is really important. I’m really glad that someone like my dentist, or someone providing me with first aid, wears single use sterile plastic gloves when they are providing me with care. Condoms are super important, single use, and provide immense benifits to individuals and to humanity as a whole. There are tons of examples where a single use piece of plastic is necessary or of benefit. There are also situations where single use plastic is pretty useful. I live in an area where the domestic North American opiod epidemic is a reality. I carry a naloxone kit when I am in certain places with single use plastic syringes, a CPR face shield, and antiseptic wipes. That is all contained in a plastic container similar to a sunglass case. It wouldn’t be practical to have that kit carried in a cloth bag or a glass container. Keeping track of my plastic use has taught me that there are very legitimate reasons to produce and use single use plastic. Straws are not one of them.
I’ve never really stopped to think how silly it is that I drink my mojito, or my ginger ale, or my smoothie from a straw. I don’t purchase straws to use in my house, but until now I haven’t really batted an eye at one being in my cocktail. They are ubiquitous. They are just there. A lot of them are just there. The United States alone uses 500 million straws a day. After an incredibly short useful life, often less than half an hour, they are generally put in the garbage. Straws are small and light, and easily end up in places other than the landfill. Plastic straws are one of the most commonly collected items on beach clean ups in North America, Australia, and along the European coastline. You may have seen the video of the sea turtle with the straw up its nose. This is a very graphic representation of how plastic straws harm wildlife. From breaking down into micro plastics to be injested, to ending up caught in orifices, to being injested in their entirety, straws cause a lot of damage. This is all the more infuriating because we simply do not need them. I can easily life my glass to my lips. I do this with my morning coffee, my water bottle, beer, tea, etc.
My coworkers and I have decided to all abstain from using drinking straws when we are out and about. It is an incredibly simple step to lessen our plastic output. Servers at some of the establishments we frequent regularly are starting to recognize this request without us mentioning it. Unfortunately, putting a straw in certain drinks is a force of habit for a lot of bartenders. Gin & Tonic? Straw. Caesar? Straw. Mojito? Straw. Ginger Ale? Straw. We sometimes see bartenders place a straw in our drink and then hastily pull it back and throw it out. This is part of starting a habit. I’m very hopeful that enough people start asking for their beverages without straws servers will start to ask if straws are necessary. Plastic shopping bags are no longer assumed to be necessary at many grocery stores. Five years ago my groceries would be in plastic bags before I could say anything, no many cashiers ask if I would like a bag. I look forward to a day when I can ask for a mojito, and the server will ask if I need a straw, instead of just assuming.
I do have some straws in my plastic stash, both due to the muscle memory of bartenders, and my forgetfullness in mentioning it. I hope to have this occur with less frequency as I continue the project. Let’s suppose I indulge in 5 drinks that would normally have a straw per week (Remember folks, we agreed that half of them are gingerale). If I get one straw every two weeks that is a saving of 18 straws over the course of the month. That is a saving of 216 straws over the course of a year. In just five short years I will have kept 1080 straws out of landfill or ocean. I tend to drink less commonly strawed beverages in the winter than the summer, so let’s suggest I’m using 200 straws in a year. That’s 1000 straws every five years.
I have three coworkers that have taken the no straw pledge. Let’s suppose each of those wonderful humans average the same amount of beverages consumed per week as me. In one year we will collectively divert the use of 864 straws. In five years we will divert 4320 straws. A plastic straw weighs approximately 0.3 grams. Our five year plan will keep 1296 grams of straws out of use. That’s 1.3 kg or 2.8 pounds. That’s a lot of plastic that really doesn’t need to exist.
We are a seasonal company, and we only really work together for April to October. We started this project in May. At this point we are we are looking at about 15 weeks left in the season. If we would average 20 straws between the four of us per week, and we don’t get any more straws over the course of the season, that is 280 non existent straws. This is pretty cool. Suppose we start at the beginning of next season, stay friends, and continue to imbibe in similar patterns to this year. We are looking at about 28 weeks of a season. We could potentially collectively divert the use of 560 straws next season.
Lots of companies take part in challenges like Bike to Work Week, and various fundraising innitiatives. This is great. Taking an office wide no straw challenge is even easier. No bake sale. No pledges. No showing up at work in your cycling spandex. No deadlines. Literally all you have to do is say “no straws, please” when you go out for Friday night drinks. I encourage every workplace to take on a no straw challenge for workers who like to socialize together. You can keep track of how much your team drinks (remember folks, ginger ale), and figure out how many 0.3 gram straws your company is diverting from use.
Thanks folks! Keep cool out there.