Tag Archives: plastic

One Small Thing: Plastic Straws

 

In this series I am highlighting one small thing you can do in your life that will make a difference in our collective waste production and move us towards a plastic free world. Don’t forget to read back through why you should consider making the switch to cloth napkins, handkerchiefs, and anything other than plastic bottles.

Today, I am breaking the news: Plastic straw are out.

You may have heard.

There are literal laws against them now in places like Seattle and California, and massive international companies like Starbucks and Disney are on board.

budget epicurean one small thing plastic straws

And thank goodness for that, because Americans use about 500 million straws per day!*

*Though the oft-cited 500 million straws per day number might not be accurate, the point is the number is really high, and no matter what the number is, we can and should work towards lowering it.

According to Time.com:

“Some scientists estimate there are 7.5 million plastic straws polluting U.S. shorelines, and anywhere from 437 million to 8.3 billion plastic straws on shorelines around the world. And plastic straws are just a small percentage of the more than 8 million metric tons of plastic that end up in the ocean each year.”

So whether the number is 5 thousand or 5 million, we need it to become closer to zero.

Some may argue the fact that straws are plastic and recyclable. To which I ask: when is the last time you actually recycled a straw?

We are really bad at recycling straws.

They are small, and so ubiquitous as to be an afterthought.

And even if we tried to recycle them, the machinery we have is built for dealing with cans and bottles and laundry detergent jugs, it cannot sort things in the tiny size range of straws.

Here’s a quick primer to answer: “can I recycle this”.

Recycling Mystery: Plastic Straws

Now, I want to be clear: this is not a political issue for me.

This is not a liberals versus conservatives thing.

I don’t give a good goddamn if you have a closet full of rifles or voted for Obama, twice.

I’m not advocating for #StopSucking or #StrawGate.

All I’m saying is, maybe this is the wake-up call that consumers and beverage providers need. The humble straw can be a “gateway plastic” of sorts. Maybe this will get people thinking about all the other single use plastics in our lives.

Maybe we can start asking why.

And how.

And what can I do to stop it.

budget epicurean one small thing plastic straws

We go through our days on autopilot, just throwing things away.

Where is “away”?

Where do you really think your trash goes?

Because literally every piece of plastic anything, ever made, is still here, on this planet. It may have broken down into microplastics, some may have been melted and turned into some other plastic thing, but it is all still here. And we just keep piling it on.

There is a lot of good to this movement, but also some bad.

Why People With Disabilities Are Sick of Hearing, “You Can/I Just.” And I Am Too.

There are people who, due to muscular, nerve, or other disorders, can only drink a beverage safely through a straw. And I don’t have all the answers.

What I’m hoping is that this inspires more of a cultural shift.

A change in perspective. A gentle jolt out of our complacent first world lives where we don’t know or care what is happening outside the boundaries of our social media feed.

 

Some ideas for alternatives to plastic straws:

Other straw materials

To choose the right alternative straw for you, you need to ask yourself a few questions.

What is your price point? How often do you use a straw? Hot or cold drinks? Thick or thin liquids? (i.e. milkshakes and smoothies vs iced coffee, water, and tea)

The good news is there is a plethora of options, with more becoming available all the time.

Paper:

Paper Straws are made from… paper.

The good news is that means they are compostable at the end of their life span and can be returned to the earth. They do have their own pitfalls as well though.

budget epicurean one small thing plastic straws

PROS
o Can be printed with food safe vegetable inks
o Vintage appearance, vibrant and colourful
o Completely biodegradable & compostable
o Great for use with children
o Trees can be a renewable resource if harvested responsibly

CONS
o Will go soggy after a short period of time
o Not suited for thick smoothies and milkshakes
o Some may still be coated in a thin layer of plastic

Sugar cane or Corn starch:

PLA STRAWS – PLA, short for ‘Polylactic Acid’ is made from a renewable resources, such as corn starch & sugar cane.

PROS
o Has the appearance of plastic
o Completely Biodegradable & compostable
o Made from renewable sources
o Can make it flexible like bendy straws
o Easily transportable

CONS
o Can only be composted at commercial composting facility, not at home
o Looks like plastic, so consumers may mistake it for plastic
o Not yet cost effective to a large restaurant/supplier

Glass:

Glass straws are of course made from glass. Most are decently thick such that you shouldn’t have to treat them too delicately, but they are still, well, made of glass.

PROS
o Very smooth, like sipping right from the glass
o Clear, you can see that it’s clean (hopefully)
o Doesn’t really conduct heat, so you can drink hot or cold drinks

CONS
o Easily breakable if dropped or banged against anything
o Slightly heavier than paper or PLA straws

Steel

Stainless steel straws are the most durable option. Made from stainless steel, they should last forever, and not rust.

PROS
o Lasts a LONG time, very cost effective
o Sleek and smooth like the glass kind

CONS
o May hurt if you hit yourself in the teeth with it
o Conducts heat well, so a hot drink might be a problem
o May occasionally get a metallic taste using it

budget epicurean one small thing plastic straws

Reusable sturdy plastic

When all else fails, a reusable plastic straw can at least be washed and drunk from many many times.

I’ll admit I have a handful of plastic straws that I bought on sale at Target several years ago. While they are plastic, they are also a sunk cost for me. They have already been manufactured, packaged, shipped, and bought.

They are a thicker, heavier plastic, and they are dishwasher safe. I use these straws to get myself to drink more water throughout the day, in my morning smoothies, iced coffees, and in many other ways, at home and out and about.

Since I wash them over and over, I’m certain these 5 or 6 straws have already been used dozens of times, and have several more years of life left in them.

 

Bring your own, duh

To go along with the points above about using your own straw that can be used over and over, it is also a good idea to bring one with you at all times if you are a frequent straw user.

There are legitimate arguments from some corners to keep at least the option of straws at restaurants, mainly for folks who, because of a disability, literally cannot drink without straws for one reason or another.

To that I say, why not have places that sell beverages be stocked with reusable straws that they can also sell? (See above)

Have it be a low enough price point that it is affordable, maybe $1.

Yes, everyone is human and if this is your situation you likely carry a straw regularly. But forget enough times and it will become very ingrained, and/or you will eventually have a straw in every car, bag, purse, and coat pocket.

Just drink from the damn glass

This is the simplest option of all: just don’t.

Like the opposite of Nike.

Just don’t use a straw.

Drink from the glass like humans have done for millennia.

budget epicurean one small thing plastic straws

Whether hot or cold, at home or on the go, you can always just drink from the vessel into which you put your liquid. And then of course either wash and reuse it, or properly recycle the container.

 

Want to figure out which straw you should use?
Take the Going Zero Waste quiz and find out!

 

 

What do you think about these plastic straw bans? About time, or too little too late? How do you avoid plastic straws?

Weekly Eating – 7/23/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Having the in-laws in town was really great. I’m lucky that they are awesome and we enjoy spending time together. We explored the area, did some shopping, went for walks, cooked good food and went out a few times, and they helped us fix our fence that got smashed in a storm a few weeks ago.

budget epicurean fence fix
The big ol tree that did the smashing is still there next to the fence on the right.

I’ve also decided that I need to get back to my pre-cruise diet habits. I’ve gotten quite lazy about working out (i.e. I don’t…) and more generous in portion sizes, and it’s showing on the scale and in the fit of my pants lately. I hate it.

But it’s all my own doing.

Since I’m tracking other things anyways (like our trash) I started tracking calories on my Fitbit app again. And have been consistently over-shooting my target range by 300-500 calories… whoops. That explains a lot.

So, after we work our way through the silly amounts of leftovers (am I the only one that ends up with infinite leftovers when family comes to visit?) meals will get more boring for me.

 

Monday:

Breakfast – a peach Almond milk yogurt

Lunch – leftovers from the weekend

Dinner – shrimp garlic fettuccini with broccoli & cauliflower

Tuesday:

Breakfast – homemade wheat toast with raspberry jam

Lunch – leftover turkey gyro & fries

Snack – 1 peach, 2 matcha energy balls from a previous food trade

budget epicurean weekly eating

Dinner – Leftover sopas from the weekend. Sopas are a super easy corn pancake basically, then you top with whatever toppings you like. I had pinto beans, guac, tomato, a tiny bit of pulled pork, and lettuce.

Tonight was also a Bull City Food Swap, to which I took my pickled watermelon rind, and some fresh rosemary garlic bread.

In exchange, I brought home Cherry Rum Jam, 6 oz fresh smoked bacon, spicy and garlic dill pickles, gingersnaps, “British flapjacks” and the happy feeling of making several new friends. 🙂

budget epicurean weekly eating

Wednesday:

Breakfast – 2 slices of homemade wheat bread with 1 tbsp PB & jelly

Lunch – Big salad with avocado, cucumber, and tomato

budget epicurean weekly eating

Dinner – we went out with a couple from work to a Mexican place, and got some delicious fried things with beans and rice and all the fixings. I swear, my diet starts tomorrow…

Snack – a peach

Thursday:

Breakfast – fruit smoothie with watermelon, mango, banana, flax, and amla powder

budget epicurean weekly eating

Lunch – tuna salad sandwich and peach & tomato salsa

Dinner – pinto beans & brown rice with steamed cauliflower, broccoli, and corn on the cob

budget epicurean weekly eating

Friday:

Breakfast – green tea matcha latte

Lunch – leftover tofu alfredo. Seriously some of the best alfredo I’ve ever had, ridiculously healthy, and tons of protein. This needs to be a staple in our meals. Also you can see the hand towel I brought to work peeking into the corner of the photo 🙂 This has been awesome to wipe my fingers after lunch, and dry my hands after washing.

budget epicurean weekly eating

Dinner – we had some people over for games, bonfire, and fun. I didn’t have time to eat dinner beforehand, so food ended up being all the snacks: pepper jelly cheese dip, chili cheese dip, raw veggies and hummus, and chips and my soon-to-be-famous Carolina Reaper Salsa! I made a new triple batch with fresh peppers, and a whole pint disappeared easily.

budget epicurean weekly eating

The Weekend

This weekend was supposed to have a food tour, but it ended up getting cancelled. That’s okay by me. We have a huuuuuuuge pile of mulch from cutting down some trees that we need to spread all around the various gardens, some weeding to do, watering, and hopefully some harvesting. And of course a big dose of relaxing.

Food Total: $34.73 + $27.51 = $62.24

This week we got our second delivery of a local produce box, and supplemented it with a trip to ALDI. I’m going to give it a few more weeks, and then I’ll tell you all about this service.

$27.51
Dairy $4.18 Staples $10.93 Fruit/Veg $12.40
Almond milk 1.89 Tortillas 4 4.66 Watermelon 2.69
organic hummus 2.29 pita chips 1.99 Pineapple 1.65
blue tortilla chips 1.89 Mini bell peppers 2.39
gallon vinegar 2.39 Mango 0.59
Celery 0.89
Bananas 2.06
Cherries 2.13

I adore ALDI so much for their low prices and no-frills shopping experience, but boy do they love packaging. The produce especially makes me sad now, all the things are individually wrapped.

I get that people want a sanitary food shopping experience, but why do I need peppers wrapped in plastic, apples in plastic, plastic boxes for the fruits and lettuce, styrofoam under my mushrooms and zucchini and jalapenos with more plastic wrapped around it?

I don’t.

Give me my produce naked! The way god intended.

Take that however you like.

Lessons Learned

The process of cutting down on grocery shopping waste is going to be a long one. Tortillas are a not-optional meal staple here, as the boy will wrap literally anything in one and call it dinner. And though I have made my own tortillas, both corn and flour, it is not an easy process. And without a tortilla press, I can’t get them thin enough without breaking or sticking to my counters.

Another part of the process will be having ‘convenience’ foods on hand at all times. We decided to have people over pretty last minute (like, barely 24 hours in advance last minute) so I did not have time to make things that require forethought, like homemade hummus which requires overnight soaking.

So perhaps I need to rethink the freezer situation. Once we work our way through all the things still waiting inside and empty it out more, I’m thinking a big batch cooking day is in order. That way I can stock it with pre-prepped things like rice, beans of all sorts, waffles, breads, cookies, granola bars, etc.

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?