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Humans love to suck: glass, steel and bamboo alternatives to plastic straws

The human habit of using straws is older than The Holy Bible, seriously! In fact, the oldest drinking straw was found in a sumerian tomb dated from 3,000 B.C.E. Straws are a useful tool for helping children, elder or disabled people to drink. What’s more, straws are a cool way to prevent the ice of your mojito to spill out of the glass, hitting directly your face when you are trying to slurp the final drops. Having said that, what’s wrong with straws?

International free straw day

 

What’s wrong with straws?

The heartbroken video of the sea turtle suffering from an embedded straw into the nose, was a warning of the alarming situation that we are creating by using single use plastic items. In the United States, 500 million straws are used and discarded every day, enough straws to wrap around the earth’s circumference 2’5 times a day. The UK throws away 8.5 billion straws each year, 4.8 billion in Germany and 3.2 in France. The plastic straws average use is 20 minutes and it takes 500 years to decompose and as far as we know does not disappear. Ever. Every single pieces of plastic ever made, is still out there in some form. There’s is no such thing as throwing it ‘away.’ There is no away. Tossed ‘away’ means it either ends up in landfill for hundreds of years, is burned releasing toxins into the atmosphere, ends up in nature, or is recycled. The plastic straw is in the top six of single use plastics found in the ocean.

What can we do to beat the plastic straw?

Do we really need the straw in our drinks? No we don’t. But it still is a routine add-on in most of the world. Say no to the straw before you order your drink. Or bring your own. By proactively showing up with your reusable straw you can say no to many plastic ones. Many options are out there: glass, stainless steel or bamboo. Heck, you can even use the branch of a papaya tree as a straw.

If you still love to suck, here you can find 6 plastic straw alternatives to keep sucking in a sustainable way.

Plastic Straw Alternatives

1: Glass Straws

Glass straws are like a little piece of art, can be designed in different shapes, colours and do not absorb the taste of other products like reusable plastics straws do. Cons? Glass is not as resistant as stainless steel so it is not the best option for travellers or for children. If you are someone who likes classy stuff for your cocktails or smoothies, glass straws are your best option. Where to buy glass straws?

Glass Straws in USA/ Canada

Glass Straws in the UK

2: Stainless steel straws

Stainless steel straws, are the perfect travelling mate, resistants, unbreakable and on budget, do not absorb any flavour. Also recommended for children. Cons? They don’t look as classy as glass straws and if you don’t like the texture of the metal it can be unsatisfying. Personally, using my stainless steel straw has saved me hundreds of plastic ones. Where to buy stainless steel straws?

Stainless steel straws in the US / Canada

Stainless steel straws in the UK

Roestvrij Stalen rietjes in Nederland

Another plastic free solution out there is the stainless steel filter straw from LifeStraw. They developed a plastic-free stainless steel straw with filter to always have safe drinkingwater during your travels!

stainless steel straw

3: Bamboo Straws

Think what nature provides. Bamboo straws are a natural and organic option that you can even DIY at your home. My parents have a big bamboo bush. We cut some, sand them a little bit, and you have a straw. And nature provides other options. In the tropics for example you have the papaya tree of which the branches are little pipes. I’m sure other options exist. Just make sure you don’t destroy what does not need to be destroyed. Cons? Unlike glass and metal, bamboo straws could get moldy if you don’t wash and dry them properly.
Where to buy Bamboo straws?

Bamboo Straws in the USA / Canada

Bamboo Straws in the UK

Bamboe rietjes in Nederland

DIY bamboo straws

I make bamboo straws from the black bamboo in my parents garden. I don’t sell them but if you like one you can get them HERE by becoming a Patreon.

4: Edible straws

How cool if you could eat the straw after you finished your drink? Check out what … has created! Now this adds to the drinking experience! Where to buy edible straws?

5: Paper Straws

Are paper straws biodegradable? Some are but not all. Sometimes the ink on the straws is plastic. Paper straws are progression and better than plastic straws. Since most of the paper straws are meant to be used only once, and it still cost a lot of energy to manufacture them, the options above are a better pick.

Paper Straws (US)

6: Straws made from straw

Where do you think the name ‘straw’ comes from? For centuries all drinking straws were made from the stalks of grain. Nature gives us straws. The real hay straw is the perfect alternative for the ‘single use’ plastic straw. They grow in abudance, suck fine, and break down quickly too. And are cheap. I wish to see these and just these in bars

Hay Straws (US)

Hay Straws (Holland)

 

What is your favourite alternative to the plastics straw?

 


Disclaimer: By buying a reusable straw you will automatically support the oceanpreneurial efforts. As always I only recommended ‘things’ I fully support. This post contains some affiliate links. If you click and buy something, the oceanpreneur will earn a tiny commission.

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From ocean adventurer to change-maker | from Virgin.com

This post was originally posted on Virgin.com

We are now 16 days at sea. Six salty sailors and I are navigating our way from Spain to the Americas on a small sailing sloop.

The lack of wind brings opportunity. After weeks of staring at the big blue we’re going to feel its magic from a different perspective. We put a line out for safety – I step over the railing and jump.

I splash into the 4,000-metre-deep water of the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of miles from the nearest shore. The feeling of refreshment and freedom is indescribable. With limited water and space, I have not showered or moved much these past weeks. I feel alive, small and on top of the world at the same time. The water is like tea: so warm. What is beneath me? I put on my mask and dive under. There is nothing to see except the butts of my fellow crew and the colour of deep ocean, blue with beams of light shining through.

Driven by my deep sense of curiosity I sail the ocean, freedive into the deep, kite surf the surface, and explore distant shores. My discoveries on, in and underneath the water have taught me about the challenges it is facing.

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad

I’ve sailed the seas in every continent except Antarctica. I have walked on remote beaches on islands hundreds of miles from mainland. I have put on my freedive mermaid fins and explored the bottom of the sea wherever I got the chance. I’ve explored below the surface in Tonga, in the middle of the South Pacific, in the Galapagos, the Mediterranean, South East Asia, East Africa, Australia, and the Caribbean. And everywhere I am confronted by the same man-made problem afflicting the ocean.

In the middle of the Atlantic, far away from civilization, I’ve seen it drifting. Plastic bags, bottles, straws. Once a fellow crew member thought he caught a fish, but it was a plastic bag. Every water sample that I have taken, every 200 miles, contained tiny pieces of plastic, invisible to the naked eye.

I have watched fish eating plastic pieces, mistaking them for food. I’ve been dancing with manta rays in a plastic soup, watching them funnel in wrappers instead of plankton, while I unwrap the bags from my fins.

Occasionally I don’t know where to resurface after a free-dive because above me I see nothing but trash. I’ve met local fishermen, from Tonga to Turkey to Tobago, telling me the catch of the day is less than 10 per cent of what it used to be. In two out of three days exploring the Mediterranean Sea last summer, I did not see a single fish.

 

Ocean Nomad Life, the good and the bad by @oceanpreneur Intro

As a sailor, I am intricately connected to nature. Life at sea provides a deep and lasting respect for nature because you are directly dependent on it. But the real truth is, we are all dependent on our ocean. The ocean is the heart of the planet. It produces more than half of the oxygen we breathe, regulates our climate and is home to magnificent wildlife and the biggest creatures on earth. It gives us food, jobs, life and joy. Without it, we cannot survive. It gives us everything and yet we are taking it out of balance, as if we were the last generation on earth.

Learn more about how to become an ocean adventurer and change-maker from Oceanpreneur – Suzanne van der Veeken

I am responsible for this. And you are too. I have ‘thrown away’ dozens of things in my life. But now I have learned, there is no ‘away.’ Every piece of plastic ever made is still out there in some form. I have been ignorant. But not anymore. My ocean explorations have taught me about the magnitude of the challenges our ocean is facing and how urgently we need to fact them.

Awareness is key but action is mandatory. We are all responsible for depleting life in the ocean and together we have a responsibility to bring it back to life. We owe it to future generations. But what can we do?

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad

Adventure has brought me awareness. That’s where it starts. From experience comes awareness. From that, comes caring. From caring comes action and leadership. We can only do good if we know what the problem is in the first place. We are so used to doing things the way we do, that we don’t think about their effect. What impact are you having, right now? Calculate your carbon footprint. Calculate roughly how many toothbrushes, and shampoo bottles you have used in your life! Now think about how you can recycle, re-use, repair and make it circular.

Educate yourself. Ask questions. Be curious. Choose wisely. Our greatest and most exciting individual power is the power of choice. To a large extent we can choose what to eat, drink, wear, believe, say, do, create, and buy. Each choice comes with consequences, good or bad. Do your best with whatever choice you make to make it a good one for you and the ocean. Your choices help you plot new routes.

 

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad

Explore, learn and gain new perspectives. Set out on ocean adventures that may be for a greater purpose. Go for a sail, jump in the sea, walk the shore, learn how to dive. Adventure can spark new insights and give you a new set of eyes. It makes us more conscious as consumers. It resets us. It makes us stronger, more confident, resilient. Maybe it makes you a leader. Maybe an ocean leader. You can shape culture, disrupt business and stimulate change. Above all, by making it fun you’ll have the energy to keep going!

Governments and companies respond to the choices and activities of the public. By plotting your course for positive change you can shape what will be on the agenda tomorrow. We’re all in the same boat so we need your hands on deck! I must climb back on board again. The winds of change are picking up. Yes let’s rock this boat! But let’s rock this boat together as a global ocean family.
– This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

This post is part of a series produced by Virgin Unite in partnership with Ocean Unite, an initiative to unite and activate powerful voices for ocean-conservation action.

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How to minimise your waste footprint when sailing the ocean? Part 1.

The discussion comes up on every boat setting sail for the ocean. How are we going to deal with waste?  Is it better to throw glass and tin in the ocean or dump it on a little island? What is actually recyclable? How to dispose waste on the other side? Are there recycling facilities in the Caribbean?

I sailed across the Atlantic Ocean 4 times now. I learned a lot on how and how not to do things. I especially saw and learned about the importance and decline of the ocean. Here’s what I learned in the waste department. Surely the intentions of the sailors and yachtsmen are to take the best care of the environment. We all love the ocean. And we like to keep it healthy so we can keep exploring this beauty forever. We also love visiting the islands and waste management facilities may be non-existent.

So how to deal with waste when sailing across the ocean?

Part 1: minimize the provisioning footprint 

ON SHORE

We have to be mindful to what we bring on shore on the islands. The Caribbean islands do not have big enough landfalls. Waste is often dumped near the road or burned. Waste in landfalls is often burned as well. So is it better to just throw things like cans, and glass in the ocean? How can we as sailors best tackle this waste management issue on boats?

Here are some ideas to minimize your footprint as a sailor while still on shore:

  • Number 1. Do you very best buying without as little packaging as possible. Be mindful on what you bring on board in the first place. It can really add up. As a crewmember, before you even hop on board minimize, minimize, minimize.
  • Opt for landing at a destination with recycling facilities in place. It’s worth making your first landing on one of these islands for safe disposing garbage.
  • In Spain, Cape Verde, and the Caribbean a plastic bag is still practically mandatory at the supermarket. Always bring your own bags.
  • Choose consciously what you buy:
    • Buy in bulk to have less packaging in the first place. You can store smaller amounts in reusable containers.
    • Paper towels. This is often used lots on board. In many situations, a good old reusable cloth can do the job. If you do use paper, get one that is biodegradable and does not have ink on it (ink is a kind of plastic!). White paper towel is bleached and should not go overboard. Recycled toilet paper and kitchen roll sounds great but is often treated with a lot of chemicals.
    • Cleaning Products. Use biodegradable washing liquid for your own and the health of the oceans. It all drains straight to the ocean. You find this in organic stores (which you can find on Happy Cow). Baking Soda and Vinegar + water remains a good cleaning product, for the boat interior as well as your hair.
    • Use natural biodegradable soaps and shampoos.
    • In Spain, go to the market for your provisioning (not supermarket). At least in Las Palmas, at the market they will pick the greenest fruits and veggies for you which will last the longest. They come and bring it in carton boxes to the boat. It’s the cheapest way, you support the local entrepreneur and not plastic bags. Avoid buying as much as you can from the supermarket. It’s wrapped in so many wrappers and at checkout, they put everything in bags again, even if you friendly ask not to do that. Especially when they deliver goods. Many boats leave from Spain where they still very accustomed to wrap things in multiple packaging.
    • Don’t buy items that contain lots of wrappers: candy, biscuits and tea (in Spain and Cabo Verde many brands even wrap every individual tea bags). Make your own. If you happen to do buy wrapped stuff, get rid off as much packaging as you can if your departure destination has facilities in place.
    • Go to the market with your own reusable bags. If you have foods delivered, see if the marketmen can take back the cardboard and boxes. You don’t want to take those anyway since they are a source of unwanted bacteria, cockroaches.
    • Choose products with recycled packaging or packaging that you can reuse yourself.
    • Use reusable containers to store goods.
    • Reuse items as much as you can– bags, containers, boxes, etc.
    • Get cloth napkins instead of paper.
    • Get wooden pegs, instead of plastic ones.
    • If you don’t have a water filter on board and bottled water is needed, buy the 20Liter bottles + a pump. Water bottles are one of the biggest ocean polluters and not desired in the Caribbean, or anywhere. Read 10 water filter solutions you can use as crew.
    • Please don’t buy balloons for the ocean birthday or halfway party. The wind and sun will have them snap and it’ll get mixed into the plastic soup.

 

We live in a world where convenience and profit still dominate the scene. Walk the extra block. What’s more important? Convenience or continuing a healthy ocean for future generations?

With conscious provisioning, you can reduce your negative impact big time.

What about when you’re out there? Read part 2: What to do with the waste that you are creating? What can go overboard?

Read more about provisioning, long lasting healthy foods to buy and how to deal with waste on the ocean and on the other side in Ocean Nomad – The Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide.

Have you sailed across the Atlantic? Then I’d love to hear from you! I’m now updating the big Atlantic Sailing survey. Your experience will help the next passage makers for a safe and conscious passage. Check it out here.

With a healthy ocean, everyone wins!

“I can sense the enthusiasm coming out at me from the pages and feel that her book is an inspiration and fantastic guide on hitch sailing and ocean preservation. It should be on every yacht out there at sea.”- Steve Green Yacht Master Instructor and Ocean Master

“It is part of my ship’s articles: I want every crew member to read it before they step on board! Not just because it is packed with tips for both captain and crew, but also because it gives a clear insight in the minds of hitch sailors. This is more than a ‘if-you-can-dream-it-you-can-do-it/-if-you-just-put-your-mind-to-it-it-will-happen” –  Captain Edwin Butter of OceanConservation


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Job Opportunity FIRST MATE Ocean Adventure Travel & Conservation Media Assistant

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Is it safe to travel to Turkey? A happy note from the sunny seaside

A happy message from the sunny seaside in Turkey. Because its people deserve it.

And for those curious what I am up to in Turkey.

Read more

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What is slow travel? And how you could! Part 2

How to slow travel if you have only 20 days off per year? It’s not necessarily about the travel time you have. It’s about the meaning you attach to the time you do have. That is slow travel. Read more

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What is slow travel? And why you should! Part 1

Temple, check! Pretty beach, check! Museum, check! Volcano, check! You’re travelling and you want ‘to get the most out of it.’ You come back home. The SD card is full with photos. You squeezed in most sights from the guidebook. You have definitely seen a lot. Only you feel like you need a holiday from the holiday you just had. Sounds familiar? Read more