Be Your Own Birder

Confession – I Have Used a Straw

This year, I have committed to not using any plastic straws, for a variety of reasons, but mainly for matters of conscience and conservation. Straws are wasteful and serve no realistically useful purpose for most of us, and they’re harmful to the environment, birds included. Thus far, I’ve done well at restaurants, with servers and fast food alike – saying “no straws, please” or else simply not adding them to my bag, then moving on to enjoy my drink without the assistance of a meaningless plastic tube. But I do have a confession to make; I’ve used one straw this year.

Before gasping in shock, please note that it is a straw (two straws, actually, one for me and one for my husband) I already had on hand – leftover from fast food takeout weeks, perhaps even months, ago. I live a frugal lifestyle, and I have a drawer filled with extra fast food napkins that have accumulated over time (why on earth do fast food employees think you need 15 napkins at once?), as well as extra straws that end up in the same takeout bags. After pledging to forsake plastic straws, I remembered this cache and didn’t know how many straws might be lodged in that random drawer. As it turns out, it was only two.


The Straws I Already Had – Photo by Melissa Mayntz

Rather than throw those long-forgotten straws away unused, I opted to use them with the next fast food takeout even while we rejected bringing any new straws home. They’d end up in the trash either way, and it’s better to use things up instead of just toss them. So the straws were opened – the paper wrappers given to the recycling bin – and used, before being safely tucked away into a trash bag. That trash bag (formerly a plastic grocery bag and thus also getting reused), once full, was tied securely so the used straws and other bits of debris couldn’t escape, and disposed of with the regular trash collection.

It did feel weird, using a straw so soon after I’d committed to not using them. But all life is about compromise and doing our best – I thought the better course of action was the spirit of my commitment, which is to not contribute to the social use of straws or “straw culture.” Accepting a new straw from a restaurant – whether from a server or part of a fast food order – perpetuates the straw cycle, as the restaurant needs to keep up their supply, which is then passed on to their customers. Because these two straws had been received long ago, their contribution to that cycle is now negligible. By using them up, as it were, at least I tried to minimize the waste, and the soul-searching by doing so helps me to think even more deeply about straws and why I’m making this change in my own life. More than ever, I’m glad I’m doing it!

Don’t forget to check back and follow along with my straw-less progress; see the counter on the right side of the page for the latest count of straws I’ve avoided in 2018!

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