At this time of year, we can all agree that a cool drink is a wonderful thing. We may not agree, however, on whether to enjoy that frosty beverage with a straw. Last month, Sea World, Ikea and Royal Caribbean joined the growing number of businesses phasing out plastic straws. Local businesses are also making the move away from plastic straws in an effort to be more environmentally responsible.
“There’s so much single-use plastic in the ocean, and straws are really just a small percentage of the plastic trash, but eliminating straws is a good first step,” Karla Klay, executive director of the Artist Boat, said. “When I’m at a restaurant, I always refuse the straw. We have to get rid of single-use plastic, whether it’s straws or bags or other kinds.”
There were straws long before plastic was available — their name comes from the fact that people in agrarian societies used to sip drinks through stalks of actual straw plucked from grain fields — and there will still be drinking straws available for those who want or need them even if plastic straws fade from everyday use.
No one foresees a total ban on straws, because they are essential for many people with disabilities, and used daily by many others for reasons ranging from keeping lipstick from smearing to avoiding the uncomfortable feeling of cold water on sensitive teeth. There are alternatives to plastic straws that are becoming widely available.
Many environmentally conscientious sippers have taken to bringing their own reusable straws with them in order to keep plastic out of the landfill and petroleum in the ground. Reusable straws come in several varieties, ranging from neon silicone straws to sleek, shiny steel tubes. There’s even a hybrid model that combines a steel bottom for maximum intake with a silicone top end for greater mouth comfort.
Like their plastic or paper counterparts, reusable straws come in a range of sizes. Metal straws tend to be thinner, good for thinner consistencies (and for preventing brain freeze) while the silicone straws are wider and better for slurping up smoothies and shakes. Almost all reusable straws come with spoolie brushes, like miniature bottle brushes, to keep them clean, and they are dishwasher-safe.
New straws call for new drinks, and the summer bounty of fresh fruit lends itself to a rainbow of fruity drinks that somehow taste better when sipped through a straw. Almost any fruit can be cut in chunks, frozen, and pureed into a cool fruit slush.
For a more balanced breakfast drink, adding yogurt to frozen fruit makes a satisfying smoothie. Peaches, blueberries, strawberries and bananas are popular smoothie additions. Smoothies are also a good way to use up the not-quite-perfect berries that aren’t ready for a prime spot in a fruit bowl; even those that are past their prime can be the stars of a smoothie.
In addition to fresh or frozen fruit, herbs like mint are great in a smoothie, especially when paired with watermelon or cantaloupe. Sometimes melons can be actually too sweet when concentrated in a drink, which is why melon drinks often call for a splash of citrus juice.