No More Straws: Why We Decided to be A Straw-Free Restaurant

A year and a half ago, we started our journey here at ʻAi Love Nalo. We opened our doors with great hope in making a positive impact on our customers, community, and earth. Aside from providing healthy plant-based nutritional food, we have also incorporated sustainability practices in our business operations. For example, we have dual flush toilets in our bathrooms, which help us to save 3-5 gallons of water per flush; installed LED lights to save energy; we use compostable to-go containers and plates; use eco-friendly cleaning products; have furniture, tables, and walls made from reused wood and materials; use power washers in our dish room, which saves hundreds of gallons of water per month and we compost our food scraps, which reduces our waste. As we grow, we will continue to make decisions that align with our sustainability mission and model. Thus, after much research, and learning from our friends at Sustainable Coastlines, our newest decision is to eliminate the purchase of straws. Although we tried to go the eco-friendly route by buying corn polymer-based straws, we discovered that they are actually quite flimsy and crack very easily. We often have to give out 3 to 4 straws per person due to the ineffectiveness of its material and design. So, we simply decided to get rid of them.

In order to understand what caused us to make this decision, we would like to share with you the 4 main reasons why we are no longer providing straws here at ʻAi Love Nalo:

  1. Straws rank in the Top 10 for marine debris. Each year over 6 million straws are removed from our beaches. In 2014, the Ocean Conservancy ranked straws as #4 for the most frequent item found on our beaches (following bottle caps, wrappers, and cigarette butts);
  2. Straws are made of the petroleum bi-product polypropylene (this is the same material used to fuel our cars – and we put this in our mouths-Yuck!). This product does not degrade naturally, so it ends up floating in our oceans for years, and is often consumed by our marine animals;
  3. Straws are swept up into gyres. In 2012 alone, over 32 million tons of plastic were thrown away making its way to our oceans. These plastic materials have been sucked up into our oceanic gyres where human waste products accumulate creating a “plastic floating island”. One of these can be found in the Great Pacific Ocean, where approximately 100 million tons of debris make-up the size of this garbage “floating island”;
  4. Straws kill our marine life. As theseplastic-straw-turtles-nose plastics start to break down and degrade, they release harmful toxins that pollute our aquatic ecosystems, which ultimately poison our fish, sea turtles and marine animals. In the North Pacific alone, it is estimated that 24,000 tons of plastics end up in the digestive systems of our fish. Our endangered turtles really suffer as well, as straws can get stuck in their nostrils and puncture their intestinal walls, which causes them to starve and die.

We know that you are probably used to using straws. So, we would like to offer you an opportunity to buy a stainless steel straw that you can use over and over again – just ask our staff about them! Or, if you don’t want to buy a straw, simply drink from your cup! It’s that easy, and you will make a HUGE difference in helping us to sustain Hawai’i and making our world a healthier happier place.