I’m stressed. In general, sure, but lately about something very specific—the environment, a worry born from increasingly alarming climate change reports and David Attenborough documentaries. While I’ve already made the requisite sustainable kitchen swaps, I’m on a personal crusade to seriously cut back my plastic use this year—and I’m starting small, with reusable straws.
With an estimated 8 million (!!) tons of plastic flowing into the ocean every year, single-use plastic items have become public enemy number one. The good news is, we’re already making strides. Starbucks is phasing out disposable straws, McDonald’s has banned them in its U.K. and Ireland restaurants, and Seattle is the first U.S. city to outlaw plastic utensils in all its eateries. But entirely eradicating these suckers is also not the solution—some people with disabilities rely on straws to drink. If there’s ever a time to find the best eco-friendly alternatives, it’s now, so I tested five of the most popular reusable straws. Here’s what went down:
The One That Won the Popularity Contest
Elevator pitch: Everyone and their environmentally conscious dog seems to own a metal straw these days—and this pack of eight is an Amazon’s Choice best-seller, with more than 3,000 4.5 star reviews. Commuters who carry large beverages in their equally large tumblers will appreciate these.
The good: These straws are made from food-grade, BPA-free stainless steel, which is notable, because many metal straws can leave a metallic taste in your mouth (these didn’t!) and come with chemicals that are just as bad for you as plastic is for the environment. They’re also sturdy and crazy cheap. Their $8 price is around the same amount I might pay for a medium iced coffee and a pastry in Manhattan. And unlike my croissant, this is an investment in my future.
The bad: Blame it on the braces years: I don’t like the feeling of metal in my mouth, and with something as hard as stainless steel, you run the risk of accidentally chipping a tooth. Plus, these straws turned as icy as the cold brew and as hot as the tea I tested them on—not ideal if you have sensitive teeth like me. A final (trivial) aside: These straws…Are. So. Long. Unless you’re buying Big Gulp–size green juices every day, 10.5 inches is largely unnecessary.
The One Made Specifically for Your Coffee
Elevator Pitch: When you want to indulge in your morning latte without sacrificing the whiteness of your teeth, this is your straw. Created to fit in the tiny slit of portable coffee cups, these colorful silicone numbers are also dishwasher safe and heat resistant.
The good: If you drink a lot of coffee—fellow addict here—you know how bad it is for your teeth (hello, stains). My dentist once recommended sipping my morning brew from a straw, a suggestion I’ve largely ignored until now, because the regular round variety never fits in the little opening. The aptly named Koffie straw fixes that. Its oval shape slips neatly into travel cup lids, and you can cut it to fit your coffee habit: tall, grande, or venti.
The bad: It might be great for coffee (or any beverage consumed in a to-go cup), but the über-thin size won’t work for thicker drinks like smoothies.
The One That Deserves a Place on Your Bar Cart
Elevator pitch: These Technicolor borosilicate glass straws are somehow both dishwasher- and microwave-safe. Leave them at home to whip out when you have guests over whom you want to impress with your stylish, sustainable ways.
The good: We dare you to look at this pack of straws and not smile. Available in a range of colors and shapes (there’s an extra-wide one that worked the best on a thicker smoothie I tested), these straws were made to be seen, not hidden away in your kitchen drawers.
The bad: They’re not so travel friendly. Keep these at your desk or at home to avoid them cracking in transit. Similar to the metal straws, these also conduct heat, so stick to using them to dress up your breakfast smoothie or your evening aperitif.
The One That’s 100 Percent Biodegradable
Elevator pitch: Get your eight glasses a day in with these 100 percent biodegradable and eco-friendly (no inks or dyes!) bamboo straws—they work best with drinks that don’t stain. The safest of which is, of course, water.
The good: The straws are about as green as it gets: To distill these carefully crafted products to their most stripped-down form, they’re basically just hollowed-out sticks. When their time is up, I plan on making a pilgrimage to Central Park to deposit them under a tree. Usage-wise, Buluh’s bamboo straws were surprisingly the best of the bunch. Sturdy and heatproof, they stood up to every drink I tested, from thick berry smoothies to hot coffee.
The bad: They come with a special cleaning wand (which does remove any residual flavor/buildup), but when I used a bamboo straw to drink the aforementioned smoothie, it stained the inside pink. Also, given that they’re wood, these will inevitably splinter over time. Be sure to let them dry out after each usage to ensure their longevity.
The One That You Can Take Everywhere
Elevator pitch: Everyone needs one of these colorful, aesthetically pleasing straws, made from BPA- and BPS-free silicone so you can pop one in your purse and take it to go. These were my favorites for everyday use, given that they solve the two biggest problems for reusable straws: ease (they have to be as readily available and low-maintenance as their plastic counterparts) and texture (no one wants to accidentally chomp down on a metal or glass straw). Plus, the tiny pink storage pods are just so cute.
The good: The biggest thing Food52’s straws have going for them is their portability. Each package (they come in a compostable, recycled plastic box) offers 10 straws with four cases, which are small enough to fit in a pocket or loop onto your key chain. The care for these is also super-easy: Every pod comes with its own squeegee to clean out the inside, and they’re dishwasher safe.
The bad: In my experience, these work best for regular cups; it’s tough to squeeze one into a plastic coffee cup lid. Considering my overall goal of reducing single-use plastic, this is actually a positive thing; I can just ask for my beverage sans cover. Also, these straws weren’t the sturdiest, so stirring an icy drink proved challenging—well, as challenging as stirring ice can really be. Not so bad in the grand scheme of things.
See more easy ways to be sustainable:
I Made a Conscious Effort to Be More Sustainable for a Week
Zero-Waste Dinner Parties Are the Future
Consider This: 5 Ways to Move, the Sustainable Way