Are you tired of single-use plastic drinking straws clogging up our oceans and landfills? Try these green sipping solutions instead.
Plastic straws have become a symbol of our throwaway culture, but their impact on the environment lasts longer than we can fathom. From polluting our waterways to harming marine life, these small plastic tubes have far-reaching consequences. Fortunately, there are several eco-friendly alternatives available that can help reduce our reliance on them.
The Top Sustainable Straw Alternatives: Ranked
Choosing an alternative shouldn’t mean picking a lesser option. In fact, it can and should be an upgrade. But who wants to test out 10 straws just to find the perfect one? Well, we have- but we bet that you don’t want to. Save yourself the trouble, because we’ve ranked the top options based on their durability, sustainability, and comfortability.
Honorable Mention: Paper Straws
Paper straws have gained popularity as a biodegradable and compostable alternative to plastic. Made from so-called green materials, these straws are designed to replace the need for plastic straws, without the environmental damage. Paper straws come in various colors and designs, which makes them popular for parties and events.
However, paper isn’t as sustainable as it seems. Trees take years to grow, and the clearcutting and monocropping of forests is a major issue. While this material does biodegrade naturally, its production is still quite taxing. And, recent studies found that paper straws contain PFAS- even more so than plastic.
Durability-wise, paper straws also leave something to be desired. However, they can become soggy if left in liquid for too long, so they may not be the best option for slow sippers or drinks that are meant to be savored. Because they break down quickly, a new straw is often needed for each drink. So, while paper straws are a slightly better option compared to plastic, they’re not recommended for those wanting a permanent solution.
Silicone Straws: Suitable For Some
Silicone has gained popularity recently as a material that can do it all. It’s flexible, soft, and easily moldable, which makes it great for straws. Silicone is a fantastic reusable alternative for children and other folks who need the safety of a soft straw.
Sustainability-wise, there’s a lot lacking. Silicone is made of silica, which is a naturally occurring material. But, it takes a high amount of energy to turn silica into silicone. Furthermore, silicone isn’t biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable. So, while this material is incredibly durable, it’s perhaps a bit too durable. Like plastic straws, silicone will be left in a landfill once its days of usability are over.
So, while this material may be favored by some, more sustainable options exist.
Stainless Steel Straws: Half Credit
Stainless steel straws are another popular choice for those looking for a durable and long-lasting alternative to plastic. Typically made from food-grade stainless steel, these straws are resistant to rust, corrosion, and breakage. They’re also easy to clean, which is a big benefit for those with a busy lifestyle.
The smooth surface of stainless steel straws offers a sleek drinking experience, and they have a modern look that many love. Some stainless straws are also collapsable, which makes them ideal for travel.
However, many people find the metallic taste and hard feeling of these straws to be offputting. For those who are susceptible to broken teeth or have sensitive mouths, stainless steel may be too abrasive. And, this material does conduct heat, so caution must be used when sipping warm beverages.
Stainless steel is a durable, recyclable material, but the extraction process required to make raw metal into straws requires high amounts of energy and resources. No matter how many times it’s recycled once it’s made, the impacts of a metal straw still leave a mark.
Glass Straws: A Stylish And Simple Pick
Glass straws are an attractive and eco-friendly alternative to tacky plastic, making them particularly well-suited for elegant occasions. It’s easy to find them in various shapes and sizes, allowing you to choose the one that suits your preferences and needs. And, the transparent look of glass offers a unique drinking experience. Many also enjoy the ability to see their beverage move up and down the straw.
This plastic alternative can withstand both hot and cold beverages, which makes it a great choice for nearly every drink. When you use a glass straw, you won’t have to worry about chemicals like BPA that are common in plastics, and they can easily be washed in the dishwasher, too.
Environmentally, glass is made from silica, which is a natural material. However, the process of making silica into glass still requires significant amounts of heat, energy, and resources. Glass is recyclable, but if it does end up in a landfill, it will sit there for up to 4,000 years without decomposing.
Additionally, compared to other reusables, glass can be fragile. Even Pyrex, which is a stronger glass option, can break and shatter. Use caution when traveling, as a broken glass straw is always inconvenient.
While choosing a straw is about personal preference, bamboo is a fan favorite. This annually renewable material is one of the least impactful around. It grows quickly and requires minimal water and pesticides to cultivate. And, the cylindrical design of the bamboo plant is naturally shaped like a straw. From the ground up, bamboo is the ideal material for a sustainable straw.
One of the key advantages of bamboo straws is their natural antimicrobial properties, which help prevent the growth of bacteria. They are easy to clean and maintain and will last for years when hand washed and let fully air dry. Because bamboo is naturally antibacterial, there’s no need for harsh and dangerous chemicals, which ensures you’ll sip safely..
Made from the strongest woody plant on Earth, you can expect these straws to last. They’re ideal for travel and can easily handle a few drops without a scratch.
When picking a bamboo straw, be sure to choose one that’s made with USDA organic bamboo and free of lacquers. Well-made bamboo straws are crafted from a single piece of material that’s been carefully selected for its strength. Straws made of various pieces of bamboo glued together are prone to cracking and should be avoided.
The Best Disposable Plastic-Free Straws
Most plastic straw alternatives are reusable, but sometimes you just need a disposable option. Luckily, a soggy paper straw isn’t your only option. These two compostable straws are made for sustainable, stress-free sipping.
Wheat straws have gained popularity as a biodegradable and natural alternative. Made from the stems of wheat plants, these straws are compostable and can be returned to the earth, giving them a much lighter footprint. They have a natural texture and add a unique touch to your beverage experience. However, their zero waste properties can come with a downside. Wheat straws do tend to lose their rigidity, which means that they’re not ideal for large drinks that will take a long time to enjoy. For quick sips, they’re the perfect green solution!
Not to be confused with their more common reusable counterparts, compostable bamboo straws offer a single-use selection with the same benefits. Made with thin cuts of the bamboo plant, rather than a whole stalk, expect them to be lightweight but surprisingly durable. These straws can last for hours in a drink without losing strength, thanks to the natural water resistance of bamboo.