REFUSE Plastic Straws!

reusable straw

There are lots of reasons to REFUSE plastic straws!

Did you know?

  • Most straws contain BPA, which is a harmful chemical that can affect brain and reproductive development. If fish and other marine animals ingest straws, those chemicals can also end up in our dinner!
  • Straws are not recyclable here in Dahab.
  • Like all plastics, straws photodegrade – they continue to break down into smaller and smaller pieces. They will always be on our planet.
  • Worldwide, straws are one of the Top 10 Most Commonly Found Items during beach clean-ups.

When I started on my journey to use less plastic, I admit straws were not high on my list of concerns. Mostly because we rarely eat at restaurants and when we do, I bring my own reusable water bottle. But occasionally I will join a friend for a drink at one of the many restaurants lining the shore here in Dahab. If that drink is tea or coffee, as it often is, no straw is necessary. That isn’t the case with my favorite order – fresh lemon juice, which I am quite happy to drink straight from a glass. I began to ask the waiters not to bring a straw with the juice, but it’s not always a successful strategy and I often end up with a straw anyway.

This happened one afternoon as I sat at a cafeteria with some friends and we began discussing whether or not we actually need a straw to enjoy our drinks of choice – sodas, juice, milkshakes, water. For me, the only drink I could think of that I would want a straw for was a milkshake, something that I haven’t even ordered for at least 5 years. One friend said only certain, more-pulpy juices called for a straw. Another said she likes straws when drinking sodas. I, of course, encouraged them to refuse the straws when they didn’t feel they needed them. Neither friend really pledged to follow through with this action, but at least we had discussed it. It was quite a serious conversation but somehow silly at the same time and I knew that at the first chance I got, I would buy them reusable straws!

Unfortunately, reusable straws are not available here in Egypt so I had to order them from America. I researched the many options – glass, stainless steel, bamboo – and was shocked by the varieties available! I finally decided on the simple stainless steel ones from Plastic Antidote, the official store of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. I asked a friend traveling from Germany to bring them in her suitcase for me. It’s been fun handing them out to several of my close friends, ones that I know will use them and engage others in conversations about them. It is my hope that if I can pull one of these straws from my bag when ordering a juice, the waiters will be more likely to understand my request to not bring me a plastic one.

Egypt produces a range of stainless steel products including dishes and cookware. We need to find a company willing to start producing reusable straws!

So until we have some available locally, please remember to ask your waiter to not give you a straw with your drink. Ask for a glass, if necessary, and drink straight from that.

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

 

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Quenching your Thirst without the Plastic

 

Next week's forecast from Accuweather.com

Next week’s forecast from Accuweather.com

As you can tell from next week’s weather forecast, summer is heating up here in Dahab! With these temperatures, it is very important for all of us, but especially children, to keep hydrated. Drinking water is essential, of course, but it does get kind of boring. For some, water is just too tasteless to drink enough of it throughout the day. So we turn to other refreshments – juices, sodas, sport drinks. Unfortunately, these all come in plastic bottles. And while we may now be able to recycle those bottles, let’s not forget the health risks associated with plastic. It leaks toxic chemicals into our food and drink. (Plus, recycling is not the solution to our global plastic pollution problem and soda is toxic all on it’s own!)

I have never been a soda drinker but used to enjoy a cold tonic water and lemon in the summer. I also love juice. But I gave up both bottled tonic water and juice in Tetra Paks several years ago when I started out on this journey to reduce my plastic waste. This was not a hardship for me as there are several plastic-free options for refreshments that are healthier, tastier, and less expensive.

Option #1: In Egypt, shops selling fresh juice can be found on almost every street and we have several here in Dahab. Take advantage of these! You can stop by the shops and enjoy a glass right there. (Try to remember to tell the juice man that you do NOT need a straw.) Many of the shops also sell fresh juice in reused 1 ½ L plastic water bottles, which is better than a new plastic bottle. If hygiene or time is a concern, bring your own bottle and ask them to fill it with your favorite juice. Nadim and I have done this often with ‘asab (sugar cane juice).

fresh juice

Option #2: Make your own juice! Visit the fruit and veggie stalls and choose your favorite summer fruits. Remember to bring your own reusable bag. My favorite mix at the moment is watermelon and lemon. I’m lucky enough to have a blender but it’s not necessary. You can also use a squeezer or handheld juice press, which are easy to buy here in Dahab.

Option #3: If you’re not a fan of juice, you can also make other drinks. Karkade is another of my summer favorites. Bringing your own bag and buying the loose karkade from the bulk bags means you can avoid all plastic.

Loose karkade bought from bulk bags

Loose karkade bought from bulk bags

Search the Internet for recipes for making your own sodas and other summer refreshments. Get creative! We have many local desert herbs growing in our garden and my husband often makes infusions out of these, which we then chill. Our favorites are shay al-jebel (Pulicaria incisa), dhafrah (Iphiona scabra), and a Saudi mint similar to habaq (Menta longifolia).

If you’re going to be spending the day out and about, fill a reusable bottle with your favorite drink and carry it with you.

What are some of your favorite plastic-free summer drinks? Do you have any tasty recipes to share?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

 

Plastic Packaging of Food

1 and a halfMany of the items on my list of plastic trash that gets “thrown away” at our house are plastic-packed groceries, or food items.

Here are a couple of general tips for buying food with less plastic:

Always buy foods in large-sized packages. REFUSE the single-serving size. This is especially relevant when buying milk, yogurt, nuts, chips, and juice. Buying these food and drink items in larger sizes reduces the packaging-to-product ratio, which means you will be “throwing away” less plastic. 

  • Buy the 1 ½ liter cartons of milk.

  • Buy the largest size of yogurt, at least the 1 kilo container (available from Juhayna).

  • Buy the 1 liter cartons of juice, not the individual juice boxes.

  • Buy your snacks in the largest bags or containers possible.

If you’ll be sending the food or drink with children for school lunches, or packing them for your own picnic, you can repackage the food at home into smaller, individual size servings in reusable plastic or metal containers or small glass jars.

Yes, this means a bit more time and effort on our part, but it also means a lot less plastic packaging will end up in our dumpsters (and streets and seas and deserts).

So remember, in this case – bigger is better!

This is, of course, just the start of how we can reduce out plastic footprint when it comes to food. We’ll be exploring many other ideas so check back often.

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle