London Restaurants Shame Drinkers Into Saying No to Plastic Straws

If businesses are going to promote more sustainable choices, they should promote choices that matter.

Green consumers do not drink from disposable plastic bottles. They do not use styrofoam cups. They eschew foam packaging. They refuse disposable chopsticks. They certainly do not accept plastic bags at grocery stores. And if a group of London restaurants succeeds in what one local merchant called “a very ambitious project,” they will not drink from disposable plastic straws.

The restaurants’ Straw Wars campaign aims to reduce waste by pushing back on the use of cheap plastic drinking straws. “Don’t be a sucker,” the campaign admonishes. In the United Kingdom, the campaign’s website points out, 3.5 million people buy a McDonald’s drink with a straw in it every day. That is a lot of straws, which tend not to be recycled and instead make their way to the ocean with so much other single-use plastic. The campaign asks restaurant and bar owners to respond by handing out straws only when asked.

But as The Guardian wrote in its report on the Straw Wars campaign, “There are no figures for the proportion that plastic straws make up as a proportion of total plastic waste, though it is thought to be very small.”

In aggregate, the personal environmental choices that we all make do have an impact. But some have a bigger impact than others. On the scale of choices that make a difference, saying no to drinking straws ranks low. If restaurants and bars are going to join together to promote environmental awareness, I’m much more interested in the efforts they’re making to minimize the energy they use for transportation and their physical space than the tiny, tiny energy and waste savings they achieve by holding back some of the plastic straws they normally dispense.

Although it’s well-intentioned, this campaign, for me, is the last straw (so to speak) in the mounting pile of fatuous green campaigns. If other guilt-driven bans are any indication, I can predict what will follow. Rather than accept disposable straws, consumers will learn to carry around a sustainable straw for multiple uses—just 1,000 drinks or so and the sustainable straw will out-green its disposable competitors. The most common brand will be made from bamboo. Luxury brands might mimic the first straw ever discovered—a tube made from gold and studded with lapis lazuli. Hip, retro bars will revive the 19th century practice of sipping whiskey through rye grass. Sustainability bonus: Rye grass is compostable. Some enterprising designer will design a system in which the rye straws will be brewed into an ethanol that powers the bar’s back kitchen.

This isn’t to say that sipping whiskey from rye straws isn’t a fine pursuit. (I’d be surprised if some farm-to-table restaurant hasn’t revived the practice already.) But smart consumers know that the truly sustainable choices are the ones that would have the largest impact if everyone made them—living in smaller spaces, using less energy to heat and cool those spaces, eating less meat, and using less gas to get around.

Fine, say no to the straw. But demand bigger changes, too.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Artnow314

Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less