My sister and I are part of an elite club called the Nature Wasters. We earned that title by not being as extreme in our environmentalism as our children (the Nature Savers). It’s hard to match elementary students in their zeal for saving the planet because it is coupled with a flagrant disregard for practicality. My sister and I, while sympathetic, could not quite bring ourselves to cut out all consumables, fossil fuels, and other Nature-Wasting items (despite the constant reminders about how our egregious use of paper towels was bringing about the extinction of tree frogs in Zambia). But you can’t live with Nature Savers for years on end without becoming more and more of a tree hugger.
This is how the Great Steel Straw Project began.
My sister sent me a link to a video about plastic waste and asked, joking, if we should show it to the Nature Savers. No! Oh my goodness, no. I take enough flack for paper goods. I do not need the children policing my plastics. But it nagged at me. The image of all of those plastic straws — discarded and forgotten but as pristinely undecomposed as they are in a store — was haunting. Every time I threw away a straw, I saw it floating toward the miles-wide ocean garbage floats that the Nature Savers tell me have developed over the years. So, to the delight of my daughters, I bought a set of steel straws and endeavored to give up plastic straws.
It’s harder than it should be. First, you have to remember to put them in the car, not just the first time but every time you wash them. We had them at least a week before we used them because we wouldn’t remember about them until we encountered a Straw Situation. Then we would have to remember we had them in the car. The children are committed enough to leave a restaurant to retrieve the steel straws. I am not.
Another hiccup is the two-window drive through. You can clearly tell window No. 1 that you don’t want straws, but window No. 2 will put them in the bag just in case. Or you may not catch them in time and the straw will already be in the drink. At this point, the girls wanted me to pull out the plastic straw and use the steel straw. I don’t think they quite believed me when I said it would be a useless gesture.
The biggest problem, though, is that we use so darn many straws. Four straws for three people isn’t nearly enough, even with our loose hygiene standards. One trip to 5 Guys with sodas and milkshakes left us wishing we had bought a second set.
We haven’t cut out plastic straws entirely (sometimes they are just so much more expedient) but even cutting out half of what we use is more than I thought we would be doing. I never realized how many straws I actually use in the course of a month until I stopped using them. This is a tiny drop in the ocean of plastic waste. I recognize that, too. Some might even call it a useless gesture. But it is a small thing that I can actually do that reminds me of a larger goal: to waste less. Not what you would expect to hear from an avowed Nature Waster, I know. And I’ve always said that if the choice is between my sanity and the planet, it’s got to be my sanity. But if even I can find a way to save the planet now and again, maybe you can, too. The Nature Savers will thank you.
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