The Last Straw

It's time to outgrow the way things have always been done.

Do you ever have a random topic repeatedly pop up in your day-to-day life and then, all of a sudden, it’s international news? I’m not sure if it’s Big Brother in my Instagram feed or just how the global grapevine works, but my most recent case of this phenomenon involves straws. 

I was grabbing coffee about a month ago with a friend and she mentioned she forgot her reusable steel straw. I didn’t think much of it other than “That’s a cool idea. Good for you for going green.” A few weeks ago at dinner, my water came without a straw. Again, I didn’t think much of it, but my sister asked if she could have one. Our server’s response? “We’re trying to cut down on the amount of plastic straws used, so we don’t offer them unless someone asks.” This weekend I noticed a note where a handful of cocktail straws typically sits at the bar: “Straws by request only. We’re trying to save the turtles.” 

So, naturally, what did I see on my Twitter timeline today? Starbucks pledging to eliminate straws from its stores globally by 2020. 

The coffee company with 28,000-plus stores uses 1 billion plastic straws a year. In their place will be one-piece, recyclable lids or straws made from other materials like metal and paper. 

For years we’ve known plastic straws are not recyclable, with many ending up in our oceans and beaches, threatening marine wildlife. And yet, Americans use 500 million per day and plastic makes up 99 percent of the global drinking straw market. Change can clearly be difficult; it’s not always easy to shake up the status quo, especially when, for decades, “that’s just how things are.” 

So, what was the literal straw that broke the camel’s back and sparked this movement? Was it the viral video in 2015 of the poor turtle with a straw stuck inside its nose? Is it the ban of single-use plastic that’s now emerging in green-thinking cities? Or, are straws an easy first step toward an overall ban on plastic? (After all, they aren’t a necessity for most people – just a convenience.)

What have you been doing in your shop that you’ve known for years isn’t the most productive, safe, forward thinking, or sustainable? What is going to be the last straw in your production process that makes you stop, think, and change?

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