For over one full calendar year now, we’ve been visiting our local beaches to reclaim, catalog, and ponder marine plastics. About a month ago, we started to do the same with plastics we find on their way to the sound; we’ve been calling these new finds watershed plastics, since they’re not quite marine yet, but they’re on their way.
Plastic straws are one of our usual suspects. We find plastic straws, whole and in fragments, during every beach visit, and we’ve been finding them upstream, too. My kids love straws, really love them. We’ve used them for various occupational therapy tasks (to develop breath control, overcome sensory aversions, etc), and we use them the good old-fashioned way in drinks, too.
As we started to collect more and more straws from our beloved beaches, our love of straws became complicated, the kind of relationship you know you shouldn’t stay in, but you just don’t want to leave. We stopped buying new straws, washing and reusing the few that we had in our collection at home. If the kids got a juice box or fountain drink at a party, they’d bring the straw home, carefully wrapped, so they could use it again (and again). But plastic straws aren’t made to last, and that’s to say nothing of what was leaching into our beverages. I found some stainless steel straws online, but they seemed potentially uncomfortable for hot or cold drinks. There are many alternatives to petroleum-based plastic products, but I wanted something that was thoughtfully designed, something that would be better in many ways, not just something less plastic. There are many changes to be made that will lessen our impact, but I think the only ones that stick are the ones that improve our daily lives in other ways, too. I’m looking for these solutions, things with elegant simplicity. I want to stay away from unsustainably complicated solutions, or those rooted in abstinence, that give rise to the whole self-righteous “look what complicated changes I’ve made for the world’s benefit, behold my suffering to counter your eco-sins” side of the environmental movement.
Lucky for us, our good friends and fellow marine plastic citizen scientists gave us 2 beautiful glass straws made in the USA by Glass Dharma. We loved them so much, I used our Chanukah gelt to buy a set of 4, so we’d have enough for the whole family and guests to use. They sit in a tall drinking glass on our table, and we haven’t broken one yet after a couple months of daily use.
They’re not inexpensive compared to the packs of plastic straws at the grocery store, but in the end the real price of these is much lower…They’re made to last and they won’t end up in our food web the way tiny bits of plastic straws do. We have 6 glass straws, enough to last us for the rest of our drinking days, and they’re beautiful, to boot.
I love simple solutions like this, things that are better without the hair shirt factor. What have you found that makes life more fun while it also lightens your footprint on our lovely earth?