Change One Thing: Straws

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The same way we take care of ourselves through yoga, meditation, connecting with friends and family… it is increasingly important to take care of our planet. The “Change One Thing” series will explore everyday items that we can use instead of disposable items to support a low-waste lifestyle. There is no need to think big from the start. Every mindful decision that we make in the right direction could help lower our impact to the environment.

Recently, something quite small and slender has been in the spotlight, for all the wrong reasons ­– the plastic straw. The issues around plastics have become more noticed ever since plastic bags were priced at 5p in the UK from 2015, and also since some viral videos and stats made their rounds on how much damage the non-biodegradable material can bring to wildlife and the planet.

It is said that every piece of plastic made so far still exists on this earth, in some shape or form. They may have crumbled to pieces by now through friction and breaking, but they are likely to exist as microplastics for years to come, as they cannot dissolve in nature.

Pieces of plastic were even found inside human bodies. This can occur through the consumption of fish that have themselves consumed tiny plastic parts for example, but also through drinking water. A study by Orb Media has tested 250 bottles of water from 9 countries and had found that 93% of their samples showed signs of microplastic contamination. Not being able to see the tiny speckles of plastics makes it harder and harder to filter out completely from our ecosystem. 

 So, what can be done? Refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle plastics. In terms of straws, the easiest and most effective would be to ditch it altogether (refuse). But for those certain drinks and occasions where you’d fancy a straw, we have made it easier for you to choose from the various plastic-alternatives below.

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The plastic straw

Pros: Light-weight; Cheap; Soft and bendable

Cons: Disposable item; Does not biodegrade

Sustainability: 2/10

Tasty drinks: 6/10

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 The paper straw

Pros: Light-weight; Lots of stylish designs; Cheap enough to be used for take-aways

Cons: Disposable item; Goes soggy after a while; Dry feel on lips 

Sustainability: 5/10

Tasty Drinks: 4/10

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The pasta straw

Pros: Biodegradable; Accessible; Innovative

Cons: High labour for just one straw; Potential waste of food; Breaks easily; Has a certain taste to it

Sustainability: 5/10

Tasty drinks: 5/10

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The bamboo straw

Pros: Biodegradable and fast to grow back; Light-weight; Natural-look

Cons: Not most hygienic if reusing across different people; Various sizes

Sustainability: 9/10 (one point down due to carbon-footprint, as they are not yet produced in the UK!)

Tasty drinks: 7/10

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The stainless-steel straw

Pros: Maintains drinks’ temperature; Little to no taste; Long-lasting; Recyclable material; Easy to clean

Cons: Maintains drinks’ temperature

Sustainability: 8/10 (if used for a long time and recycled at its end of life)

Tasty drinks: 9/10

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The glass straw

Pros: No taste; Recyclable material; Easy to clean (and see whether it’s clean!);

Cons: Water residues can remain and look unclean; Could shatter

Sustainability: 9/10 (commonly recyclable)

Tasty drinks: 9/10

Of course, plastic straws aren’t the only problematic item out there. As with anything, what is most important to remember is that the change in our consumption habits overall is what is the most effective – because whether it is plastic, paper, or stainless steel, if we continue to consume and produce items of any material with a disposable mentality, the Earth cannot keep up with the demand.

 
Think, choose and shop wisely and mindfully.
 

If you have any thoughts on other straw ideas or want to share your thoughts on having tried any of the above, do get in touch!

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Based in Tokyo, Japan, Mona is a deadline-ridden consultant during the week, and a yoga teacher on some weekends, providing bilingual classes to an international community of all levels. While she doesn’t spend too much time making her social media jazzy, you can reach out to her on Instagram @m0namona and on Facebook on https://www.facebook.com/m0nayoga/ to find out about upcoming classes.

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