This week my kids really wanted to stop and get milk shakes on our way to work. There is a locally owned drive thru place right on the way, so I agreed to the treat and packed our own cups and straws.
My son, however, was sure that they wouldn’t do the shakes in our own cups, and moreover was embarrassed that I would ask for a special accommodation because I’m avoiding plastic waste.
I can understand how he feels, and it made me think of how many times I haven’t tried to add the 4th R, “Refuse”, into my eco-lifestyle simply because it seems embarrassing to do things differently than everyone else is. As long as the norm is to use a disposable straw in everything, you have to make waves to do it differently.
On this occasion, I asked if they could make the shakes in our cups, and they said No, their machine works with the wax cups and would tear our cups up. I said, OK, but please no lids or straws.
They handed us our shakes with the lids on, and handed me two straws, which I handed back and said “we actually didn’t want the lids or straws”, they said sorry, I said “no big deal, thank you”, and tipped them. The lids, having been used, we just took.
Was that exchange embarrassing? I wasn’t embarrassed, and in the end the kids said they were less embarrassed than they expected to be.
Annoying to the employee at the drive thru? Maybe, although I tried to be nice – I was still asking for something different than their routine.
What would happen if we all asked for no straws? It would become the norm, and easier to remember not to just hand straws to everyone. So I’ll just have to keep putting myself out there a little bit, practicing Refusing the plastic.