Wouldn’t it be nice if restaurant servers asked if you wanted a straw before sticking one in your drink automatically? Right now, it’s up to us to refuse those straws ahead of time. And sometimes, we have to ask more than once for our request to be remembered and fulfilled.
That’s one of the reasons I carry a Glass Dharma glass drinking straw with me wherever I go. Whipping out my straw is a memorable way to get the server’s attention and sometimes to start a conversation about the environmental impact of plastic. I also have sensitive teeth, so drinking cold beverages through a straw is just easier. Some of you have mentioned that you don’t need any straw at all. So let’s tell restaurants to quit giving them to us!
1) Choose your restaurant(s) to write to. Any restaurant. Preferably one(s) you frequent and that you have noticed gives out unwrapped straws automatically.
2) Write a snail mail letter. Paper letters get more attention, so you’ll have to look up the company’s address. I’ve included my own letter to a restaurant at the bottom of this post. Feel free to use it as a model, but do try to use your own words in case more than one person writes to the same restaurant.
3) Copy your letter into a comment on this blog, including the address of the restaurant so others can write to the same establishment if they choose. (Delete your personal contact information before posting your comment here where everyone can see it.)
My Letter to Pasta Pomodoro
Okay, here is the letter I am mailing today:
April 15, 2011
1550 Bryant Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Dear Pasta Pomodoro:
As a long-time customer, I not only appreciate your food but also the fact that it is served on beautiful, durable dishes, with real flatware and glasses. I know that when I eat at your place, I’ll have a waste-free meal — except for one thing: the disposable plastic straws. I don’t need or want one. But unless I ask the server ahead of time not to bring me one, they stick a straw in my drink automatically, generating plastic waste that will last for thousands of years.
In honor of Earth Day, I am writing to ask you to change your plastic straw policy.
1) First, please train your servers to ask customers if they want a straw instead of automatically giving them one. Some people don’t like straws and will appreciate being asked. All others will get a chance to stop and think about whether they actually need this disposable plastic item in the first place. It’s like grocery stores training their employees to ask whether customers want a bag.
2) Second, I would love it if you’d switch to paper straws for those customers who request one. Yes, they are still disposable, but at least they are compostable and will not last in the environment, potentially harming wildlife. One company that offers paper straws is Aardvark (http://www.aardvarkstraws.com).
3) And third, please consider participating in an upgrade program, offering customers the opportunity to pay extra for their meal and receive a reusable straw to carry with them. I have been carrying a glass straw from a company called Glass Dharma for the past few years so that I don’t have to waste plastic. On their web site, they describe the Menu Upgrade program for restaurants (http://glassdharma.blogspot.com/2010/11/whats-on-menu.html), which I think is a great idea.
Please respond and let me know which steps you are willing to take. I do appreciate your restaurant and thank you for the free meals on my birthday and good food the rest of the year.
Update: After publishing this post, I was contacted by the team of BeStrawFree.org letting me know about 9-year old Milo’s project to reduce single-use plastic straw waste. Please sign on to and pledge to live plastic straw-free.