In a perfect world, all bars and restaurants would make the switch from plastic straws to paper straws overnight. Unfortunately, that’s just not going to happen. Why? Well, for a lot of reasons. Maybe a restaurant is set in its ways. Maybe it’s about cost? Perhaps it’s about sourcing the product? And some restaurants simply might not be aware that there’s a massive problem at hand – Americans use 500 million straws daily.
In Buffalo, serving plastic straws is still the norm, but there are a couple of restaurants that are bucking the trend. Coco, located at 888 Main Street, has made the transition from plastic straws to paper, and pasta! Bar manager Stevie Kraatz (lead image) recently explained to me that restaurant owner Maura Crawford challenged him to source plastic straw substitutes. “The funny thing is,” he told me. “I was already using paper straws at home. I felt so guilt that I was serving so many plastic straws at work, that I ordered paper straws for my house. So I already had the information that she wanted. We even took it a step further – we switched up our plastic stir straws for pasta stir straws. I just cut the pasta in half, and it works great. The customers also appreciate it – it’s a great conversation starter.”
At Coco, drinks are not served with straws unless a customers asks for one. While paper straws might cost more, the added price is offset by the number of straws that are not served to customers. I spoke to Maura, to find out what made her decide to be one of the first restaurants in Buffalo to do away with the plastic straw. “It was because Prish Moran at Sweet_ness 7 was giving me a hard time. Thanks to Prish, who was the first to use paper straws, Coco is now plastic straw free.”
To tell you the truth, all things considered, the paper straw is a much better look than the plastic straw. Plus, they are a lot more durable than you would imagine. I sipped my drink for a half hour, and by the end, the paper straw was completely fine. I also found that the pasta stir sticks passed the durability test. An added bonus is that the customer can eat the pasta stirrer if he or she desires.
The best thing about ditching the plastic straws, aside from the environmental aspect, is the way the customers appreciate the gesture. Seeing paper straws at an eating and drinking establishments says that the owner cares about the customer, and the planet. “We hand out one straw for every five that we used to put into drinks,” said Stevie. “Most customers are fine drinking out of a glass. We also switched to biodegradable take-out containers, which customers also appreciate.”
Between the colorful paper straws, and the classic-looking pasta stir sticks, Coco is leading the way for others to cut out the plastic. Stevie said that he sources the paper straws through Outside The Box Papers. Like I said, the paper straws are going to cost more, but if they are handed out upon request, there should not be any noticeable cost increase. As more and more customers start to order paper straws, the price will start to come down, so that’s something to look forward to. Currently, a plastic straw might cost 2 cents, and a super durable (and colorful) paper straw might be five cents more. In the end there are some customers who will make it a point to support the establishments that are going out of their way to help save the planet. Outside The Box Papers has free shipping for orders over $25, which also helps to offset the cost. As for the pasta stir sticks, they can be sourced at a number of local food suppliers. Personally, I will make it a point to seek out the bars and restaurants that go the extra mile to source biodegradable products.
Stevie also made a point to mention that Coco only uses compostable take-out containers that they source from Darnel. There’s no reason for anyone to be using Styrofoam containers these days, especially when eco-friendly containers are so readily available. Kudos to Coco for doing the right thing when it comes to safeguarding our planet. Hopefully others will take notice, and realize that a united effort is the only way that we can free ourselves from the scourge of plastic pollution.