When I was in college, I always did my best to carry around reusables.
I carried my backpack everywhere, for class and for important snack runs. Naturally a backpack meant I could carry around utensils and a thermos, too.
But one day, staring at the bright plastic straw in my smoothie, it occurred to me that I could probably get a reusable straw.
At the time, most search results for “reusable straw” were for straws made of stainless steel. Not knowing any better, I purchased a pack of five, and thought I was set for years.
Bamboo Straws vs Metal and More
Turns out steel straws are probably the worst reusable straw you can buy. They are basically unusable with hot drinks. They are (obviously) extremely hard, so much so that I fear hurting my teeth, or punching a hole in my bag. They do not bend in any way, shape, or form.
The most important criticism is that they are non-renewable. When I inevitably lose one — or find one unusable for one reason or another — we cannot just grow more metal out of the earth to replace it.
Thankfully, searching for reusable straws in 2020 is much more flexible. You’ll find plenty more options than I did all those years ago: silicone, glass, paper, hay, grass. Reusable straws have gotten more numerous and more varied than ever — so varied that I’ve had to do my fair share of research and testing to decide what’s best for me.
Having tried out dozens of straws, made of various materials, I’m of the opinion that if you want the perfect balance of usability, eco-friendless, quality and cost, bamboo is the way to go.
Why Bamboo Straws Are Sustainable
In terms of the environment, bamboo is leagues beyond the competition. Bamboo is a renewable resource, with new bamboo becoming harvestable in under five years. Raw bamboo takes only a few weeks to biodegrade in an industrial compost heap, and only a few years in a landfill. It makes sense that tons of eco-friendly companies are turning to bamboo.
Practical Advantages of Bamboo Straws
Separate from the environmental benefits, I’ve found bamboo straws to be all around more usable than the competition, particularly compared to metal and glass.
Not Too Hard, Not Too Soft
Bamboo straws have the perfect amount of hardness. They are a bit softer than metal, so I don’t have to be paranoid about accidently chipping a tooth. On the other hand, they don’t wilt or break the way paper straws do.
Speaking of breaking, that’s one issue with glass straws. When I’m sipping and relaxing, the last problem I want to worry about is a bunch of glass shards in my mouth.
They do not transfer heat nearly as much as metal or glass, so I can actually use them with hot beverages. After all, what’s the point of having a straw if you can’t stick it in something as common as coffee or tea?
The Right Price
They are much cheaper than most of the competition, so I’m not devastated if I lose one. Compare the price of a six pack of Public Goods’ bamboo straws, $5, to these deals:
If you know yourself well enough to know you’re going to lose straws on occasion, you’ll save money with bamboo.
Don’t Get Bamboozled: Here Are the Cons
If you decide to give bamboo straws a try, there are a few cons to consider:
Not the Most Dishwasher-Friendly
Most bamboo straws need to be hand-washed. Unlike metal and silicone straws, you can’t run bamboo throw the dishwasher many times and expect it to hold up.
Bamboo, like metal and glass, is not bendable. So if you need flexible straws, silicone is your best option.
Unlike steel and glass straws, bamboo straws wear out over time. Be sure to check your bamboo straw to see if you can spot any splinters or errant fibers. If you see any, it might be time to compost that straw.
If you’re looking to host a party or large get together, newer options like grass and hay straws are a better bulk pick, as they are cheaper and meant to be disposed of.
Is Bamboo the Best for You, Too?
Keeping all this in mind, it is still abundantly clear that, for the everyday individual, bamboo straws are the way to go. In 2020 bamboo strikes the best balance of sustainability, affordability and versatility.
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