Jumble of colorful straight and twisty plastic straws.

Our girls love straws, but I despise them.

Now that we live in Costa Rica, I visit stores less frequently and we rely on friends and family visiting from the States to fulfill our consumer needs every once and awhile. Our latest request from a visiting friend was to bring metal straws to satiate the little girls’ straw desires.

One of the first things I learned when we landed in Costa Rica was “sin paja, por favor,” which means, “no straw, please.” Sometimes waitstaff would look at me like I’m crazy. “Why wouldn’t you want a straw?” says their expression. There are times when I don’t even think about saying “no straw,” or I sit down at a table and a glass of water is brought to me, straw and all, and I haven’t even gotten comfortable in my chair. It can happen to anyone so quickly.

In the US alone, we use and dispose of over 500 million straws a day.


Multiply that by the 365 days in each year.

Close your eyes and let that sink in. How could that NOT have a drastic effect on our oceans and sea life?

There are ways you can take control of this type of plastic from entering your life and wean yourself from this habit.

As soon as you sit down at a restaurant, tell your server that you don’t want a straw. When traveling, learn to say “water without a straw, please,” in foreign languages, just as you would learn hello, goodbye, and thank you. Buy glass or metal straws instead of buying plastics ones, if you have to buy straws for home use at all. Make smoothies at home rather than buying them while out and about (you’ll save cup waste as well!).

When I started writing this very short blog post, I had no idea that the brilliant people at the Plastic Pollution Coalition had already created and distributed a petition asking people to pledge to never use straws again. I love this pledge! I entered my name and I encourage everyone to do so as well. Share on Twitter & Instagram: #RefusePlasticStraws and #PlasticPollutes

Upon searching, there are quite a few other organizations that focus on changing the straw habits of people. The Last Plastic Straw is another organization dedicated to educating people about the effects of plastic straws and encourages bars and restaurants to offer straws to customers only when requested.

The girls are enjoying their new glass straws. We watch very few videos these days, but I plan to show my little ones this video clip after school. It shows a team of well-meaning people extracting a straw from the nose of a gorgeous turtle. These are some of the fun videos my kids get to watch – that’s the fun kind of mom that I am!

I look forward to the day when all municipalities ban plastic straws alongside plastic bags.

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About The Author

Nikki Pava's picture

Nikki Pava is the author of Green Wisdom: A Guide for Anyone to Start, Engage and Energize a Sustainability Team. She is also the founder of Alegria Partners, a consulting firm that specializes in sustainability engagement initiatives for mission-driven companies.

Prior to her work at Alegria Partners, Nikki founded EcoTuesday, a national networking forum that facilitated vital connections and essential change in the business community. EcoTuesday hosted more than 300 events in 12 cities across the country and brought together hundreds of sustainability professionals, making a positive impact in each city.

Nikki holds an MBA in sustainable management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. She lives in an eco-community in Costa Rica and is currently writing a book about teams in businesses that focus on reaching their company’s climate change goals.

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