I love straws. I mean, who doesn’t think an ice-cold water—or margarita, if you’re me—tastes better sucked than sipped? (Well, my boyfriend doesn’t, but he hates bagels, so he can’t be trusted.) As an avid, if not fanatical, recycler, (hide your empties) I’m quite torn. Apparently, or so my Earth-loving, Vermont-dwelling Facebook friends have pointed out, straws are bad for the environment. First grocery bags, and now this? I already have a meltdown whenever I forget my reusable Hannaford bags at home—so what am I to do when all I want is a Coffee Traders vanilla iced coffee with extra ice to go? Sip it straight out of the cup? What am I? Some sort of wild animal?
In my research into the straw crisis (see Saratoga’s Mint Crisis for more calamitous news), I came across strawlessocean.org, which has informed me of several life-altering facts:
- Americans use over 500 million straws every day.
- Most plastic straws are too lightweight to make it through the mechanical recycling sorter.
- Seventy-one percent of seabirds and 30 percent of turtles have been found with plastics in their stomachs.
- By the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
As much as I’d like to hate the messenger—these Strawless Ocean people—I can really only hate myself. How many sea turtles have had straws stuck up their noses because of my coffee-loving ways?
But enough about the problem. I’ve found the solution! While out for drinks at Hamlet & Ghost—home of Saratoga’s best, and probably only, Gin Gin Fizz—I found (*drumroll*) reusable straws! In two varieties! One was a metal straw, peeping out of a Whiskey River, and one was a reusable plastic one, in the legendary Gin Gin Fizz. My (slightly buzzed) mind was blown. The mastermind behind Hamlet & Ghost’s decision to swear off single-use straws is owner Brendan Dillon. “It’s easy for us to see just how much waste there is with plastic straws,” he tells me. “We don’t like to see hundreds of them go into the garbage every night. More and more bars have been making the switch over [to reusable straws], especially in New York and California. It’s just about doing our part.” The Mouzon House, Dillon says, has also switched its straw policy, but to no straws, rather than reusable ones. Saratoga Tea & Honey Co. has also jumped on the reusable straw bandwagon, and Caffè Lena now uses cardboard straws in their drinks.
Of course, Hamlet & Ghost and The Mouzon House are dine-in restaurants and bars, so reusable straws and no-straw policies are practical endeavors. It’s fast food chains, where customers take their drinks to go, and need lids on their cups, that will have a harder time making the transition to a no-straw policy or to compostable (usually paper) straws. Starbucks, however, announced July 9 that it will eliminate plastic straws from all of its locations by the year 2020. The company’s Seattle locations have already made the change, as the entire city—all 5,000 restaurants—banned the use of single-use plastic straws and utensils as of July 1, a movement the city is calling “Strawless in Seattle.” The rest of Starbucks’ locations, including the one on Washington Street and Broadway in Saratoga, which I stopped by the morning of the company’s announcement, have started the transition to strawless with their Cold Foam Cascara Cold Brew, which comes with a lid you can sip right out of. Starbucks also has long had reusable cups for sale, offering customers ten cents off their beverage order when they bring their own cup.
Realistically, straws make up only about four percent of plastic trash by number of pieces, and less than that by weight. But straws are a “gateway plastic,” says actor Adrian Grenier, who co-founded Lonely Whale, a foundation that campaigns for people to #StopSucking (which, by the way, is quite applicable to life outside of straw sipping, if I do say so myself). Straws are one way people can easily understand the pollution problem, and giving them up is relatively easy to do. Plus, talking about straws leads to larger conversations about pollution as a whole. Since the Lonely Whale campaign started, many celebrities, including actresses Ellen Pompeo and Amanda Seyfried, have made the pledge to #StopSucking. “OK, Adrien and my friends at Lonely Whale,” Pompeo said in an August 2017 Instagram video. “I accept your challenge, and I vow never to suck again.”
I’m thinking about making the pledge, too, despite my love for straw-sucking. I already have a reusable cup—I just have to start remembering it on my coffee runs. And with two delicious single-use straw-free options (the Cascara Cold Brew and any of Hamlet & Ghost’s amazing cocktails) right here in Saratoga, I may just succeed.