Zero Waste Step #Bonus: Refuse (or Rethink) the Straw


This post is part of my “5 Steps to Zero Waste You Can Start NOW” series.

Do you ever grab more toilet paper than you actually need?  Just spin that puppy a couple of times before you realize you only needed about a third of what you tore off?

I feel like giving up the straw is a lot like combating the too-much TP reflex.

Unlike plastic produce bags, which is an easy habit to break once you take a few minutes to consider how wasteful they are for only a small gain, refusing a straw is actually a MUCH harder habit to break.

Here are two scenarios…

1.  You arrive at the grocery store.  You are in public with two young children (who are probably hungry) so tension is already high when they start to fight over who gets to sit in the cart.

2.  You arrive at the restaurant.  You are in public with two young children (who are definitely hungry) so tension is already high when they start to fight over who gets to sit next to Mommy.

So far it sounds remarkably similar, right?  Read on…

1, cont.  You spend the next 30 seconds calming everyone the F down before you get to the produce section where you can then decide how to bag your oranges.  Your reusable bags are in the cart as a visual reminder in case you forget.

2, cont.  You are still trying to calm everyone the F down before BOOM! the waiter shows up with three waters and three straws all unwrapped except for that sanitary bit on the top.

Unless you are in a fast food joint, it is often not your call if you get straws or not.  You have to proactively remember to refuse the straw. And refusing the straw is a reminder that the hardest part, yet also the cheapest part, of a Zero Waste lifestyle, is changing your brain to think differently.

I took up some suggestions from the family on how to remember:

  • Wear little bracelets that say “No straw, please!” (from the kids)
  • Wear bright pink trucker hats that say “No straw, please!” (also, from the kids)
  • Don’t go out (from the hubs; probably the best option but whatever)
  • Bring our own straws

On that last suggestion, since this is part of FREE Zero Waste ideas, and because I detest the idea of consuming in the name of non-consumption, I think the best option is to rethink the straw all together. As an able-bodied person, unless I’m about to enjoy a milkshake or partake in a tasty beverage sur la route, I’m not sure I even need a straw. I don’t need a crappy paper straw either. AND, if I’m in a position to be offered a straw in the first place, chances are I’m about to use a disposable cup as well.

So unlike, say, using cloth dishcloths or cloth napkins, where you are updating an existing habit with more eco-friendly materials, this requires a mentality shift–difficult to the point it has become a non-fiction sub-genre (see Charles Duhigg). I suppose, if you aren’t convinced, you can always watch the sea turtle video, here.

January 15, 2021

About Me

About Me

I’ve been passionate about combatting blind consumerism since 2008 and joined the Zero Waste movement by starting this blog in 2013, soon after my second child was born. I think it might have been trying to unwrap a toy or someone’s attempt to sell me a butt-wipe warmer that put me over the edge… read more



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