So you've decided to make the right choice for our planet (or your local government has given you no choice!), how do you begin?
There are two perspectives you will need to consider- yours as a business and your customers.
Financially, there is no question that any disposable plastic straw alternative is going to cost you more money. However, this is only if you view this as an eye for an eye scenario. (you previously purchased 10,000 plastic straws a month so now you are cost comparing 10,000 alternative material straws) No, wrong approach- this is like going gluten free and wondering why you are not feeling better because you swapped all your pie crusts for a GF option.
Your customers must be willing to come to bat for you too. Your business previously giving out plastic straws is not the only culprit. Your customers willingly accepted them and used them. In short, humanity messed this one up, big time.
We are in the midst of a sustainable revolution and things are changing... for everyone.
Three steps to tackle both the financial burden and to change your customers' behavior are as follows:
1) Begin with an ask-first straw policy. While we are all learning how to change our behaviors, your staff should be educated to ask customers if they would like a straw when giving them their water and/or other beverages along with delivering a quick message about why (Our town has a plastic straw ban, we love sea turtles, please help us do our part for the planet, etc.). Table tent cards can also be used to educate or anything you give the customer to read- a sign or on the menu! No more straw bombing the tables.
2) The straws they will be given can be any variety you prefer- a quick search of reusable* or paper straws will yield many results. Yes they cost more, but you will not need as many because with your ask-first straw policy, you've already cut down the number of straws going out.
*keep in mind, reusable straws are just that-- reusable. Just as you stock silverware, you may consider stocking straws. If you serve children, stainless steel straws are too rigid and are not recommended- please review individual straw manufacturers recommendations on this when considering. Perhaps a supply of shorter bamboo children's straws will do. You likely will also need small straw cleaning brushes** to ensure cleanliness- also, easily sourced.
**Yes, you need to individually clean these straws (until someone invents a machine for that! Hello, opportunity...) But, taking the time to insert a cleaning brush is the right thing to do. Ignorant convenience is no longer acceptable. Use the time you would have taken placing all those straw re-orders and inventory control.
3) Encourage your guests to bring their own straws. Here comes my plug! If they need a cute way to transport their clean (and then dirty) straws in a lightweight, machine-washable, cotton bag that supports wildlife conservation, please visit Wendy Barnes Design and they will have dozens of Reusable Straw Cases to choose from. Custom prints and colors are also available- perhaps your town has a beloved animal species you all rally to support- I donate 10% to conservation partners for the animals pictured and yes, I can do jackalopes too. Have them at your counter and let everyone be a part of this solution.
Suddenly, you have cut your straw usage down to a third of its size by enacting all three of these steps. You feel good, we all feel good and your financial burden has been lifted.
Don't stop at just straws either- disposable chopsticks are horrible for wildlife too. Use the steps above to eradicate all of your single-use anything. Reusable Straw Cases can carry straws and utensils- have your customers meet you half-way.
If you'd like more suggestions or guidance, I am happy to help you. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wendy Barnes Design connects wildlife conservation causes to everyday lifestyle choices through animal prints resulting in awareness and action. Join the newsletter and meet the partners you can support through every purchase and more at www.wendybarnesdesign.com