Eco-friendly straws

Straws that don’t suck! A marketer’s guide to eco-friendly straws

Eco-friendly straws

As a marketer looking for promotional merchandise you want a cheap, easily-customised product that is used often by everyone. A few things match this description – pens, drink bottles and tote bags come to mind. Straws are another that fit the bill. While their troubled, plastic past may cause you to shy away, eco-friendly straws are the way of the future.

Below are the most common plastic-free straws that are perfect for your summer promotion. We’ve included details from recyclability to mouthfeel so that you can find the ultimate eco-friendly straws for your customers and clients.

Stainless steel straws are reusable, durable and long lasting. Their size and shape mean that they’re very difficult to dent, bend and almost impossible to break. They’re also resistant to rust and corrosion. Stainless steel is food safe and dishwasher safe. While it does use more energy than plastic to produce, a stainless steel straw only needs to be used 150 times to counteract the energy used to produce it. That is well within its life span because they are so durable.

On the downside, it is reported that stainless steel can give drinks a metallic taste. And they can be “jabby.” While they can have smoothed and rounded tops and bottoms, their rigidity makes stainless steel straws prone to poking mouths. This can be fixed, however, with a silicone mouthpiece.

Stainless steel straws often come in their own canvas bag with a straight straw, bent straw and straw cleaner. The bag is printed and the straws themselves can be both printed and engraved with your logo or message. They travel easily within their pouches, with no risk of being bent or broken in a handbag or pocket. They are great eco-friendly straws for everyday use.

Glass

A straw made of glass may be your clients’ favourite straw ever. Primarily because of its satisfying weight and smooth mouthfeel. Being see-through, glass straws are easy and fun to clean. You can watch as you brush away any juice bits or smoothie residue. They’re also endlessly reusable and 100% recyclable.

These straws are commonly made from borosilicate glass, which is shatter, bacteria and temperature resistant. That means your sparkling soda and creamy coffee can slide up that tube without sizzling or freezing your fingers. It’s also tasteless – which, in this case, is a big plus!

However, while they are shatter resistant, glass straws are not unbreakable. Any sharp impact, a fall on to tiles for example, may break your glass straw. Luckily, the pieces will be big so clean up is a breeze. The breakage factor does put people off glass straws because it makes them tricky for travelling and not the easiest for children.

Printing is simple on a glass straw. The most common way would be a pad print. For longer lasting branding, you could also go with etching. A clean and classy option.

Bamboo

Bamboo is a popular product for branded merchandise. It’s a barely-processed, natural material that can be made into many things. With its fine grain and soft colour, bamboo is perfect for brands looking to make a statement with an eco-friendly product.

As a straw, bamboo is a great reusable, sustainable and biodegradable resource. They are sturdy, not temperature sensitive and gentle in your mouth. However, they have been known to have a woody taste. Bamboo straws are hand wash only and have a limited life span, because of their internal texture. Their porosity means that over time bacteria will build up inside the straw despite regular washes. The final downside to bamboo straws is that there are no bendy or bent options. This might impact those needing straws for accessibility.

Silicone straws are a family and marketing favourite. The plusses for whoever is using it are many, so we’ve listed them below.

  • Soft on your mouth (great for kids)
  • Dishwasher safe (great for adults)
  • Made from food safe silicone
  • Reusable
  • Easily transported
  • Can be cut to size
  • Can be straight or bent

For marketers, silicone straws come in any colour you can think of. They are easily printed. They can even be debossed for more subtle but impactful branding. Thanks to their malleable construction, silicone straws also come with a range of carry options. Such as hard square and circular, keyring and carabiner clip cases. These all have solid branding spaces themselves.

Unfortunately, silicone straws are not recyclable and will one day end up in landfill. They must be washed often and well, too, because bacteria love silicone’s texture as much as you do. Silicone deteriorates over time and while its life span is longer than bamboo, it does have an end date.

Paper straws are the first we look to when sourcing a plastic straw alternative. When we want something single use for an event. They can be a great pop of colour in a glass and even greater when that colour matches your brand and décor. However, while they are biodegradable, there are a few things about paper straws that make people look elsewhere.

Firstly, we know how they feel when they get soggy…ew. Paper straws are not particularly sturdy and can collapse mid-suck if your beverage is on the thick side. While they do degrade, paper straws are still single use. The energy used for production (more than plastic straws) is not counteracted by a long, practical life. And finally, paper straws cost around 2.5c to produce and contribute to deforestation.

If you are still looking for a single use, biodegradable option for your event, paper is a fine eco-friendly, plastic alternative. They come in easy to brand recycled and recyclable card boxes and won’t end up in the ocean, up a turtle’s nose.

Wheat/Hay

The modern straw’s namesake is a simple length of wheat or hay. And since the world’s been looking for more plastic-free options, wheat and hay growers have made the original straw available again. The straws we’re after are a biproduct of wheat and hay production and would otherwise be discarded. Putting it to use instead extends its life and minimises waste. The downsides are that their production cost is about the same as paper straws, and like bamboo straws, there are no bent options. That’s it.

So, what are its other virtues?

  • They are a single use option but can be composted and will break down in 1-2 months.
  • They are taste-free – so no grassy after tones.
  • They are gluten free because the gluten in wheat is found in the seed and not the stem.
  • They can be easily cut to size and come in a range of widths.
  • They are made in Australia.
  • They come in a recycled card box with your name on it.

If you’re interested in how they’re made, this is the process. The hay stems are hand selected for length and width. The outer layer is removed and the straw is sent for rinsing. Once foreign particles are washed away, the stems are soaked and rinsed again. They are then air dried and cut to a uniform length for packaging. They are sorted and inspected and then washed again. After they are dry, they are disinfected and finally packaged in that recycled, plastic-free packaging.

Straws are not always the first product you think of when you want to make an impression. There are a lot of options out there. But in a world where individuals are trying to make a change for the world, straws are great. One person using a reusable straw like those above stops 584 plastic straws per year, from ending up in the ocean. Eco-friendly straws are great for people, great for the planet and great for marketing. For more environmentally conscious products, go to our online product catalogue. And have a read of our enviro bags blog.

event merchandise environmentally friendly

Party On! – How to make your event merchandise environmentally friendly

event merchandise environmentally friendly

Wherever people come out to celebrate there will be others trying to cash in. Festivals and parades are flooded with advertising attempting to reach every person there. They’re great for promotional products because the attending demographic is narrow. The chance of you reaching your target market is high. After a festival or social event, your branded merchandise shouldn’t be included in the clean-up. Environmentally friendly promotional products are a matter of purpose and consideration. Read on to see how you can keep the earth in mind when you next purchase merchandise.

Limit production waste – Choose products with a purpose

You may believe that it’s up to those to whom you’re giving a product to only take it if they want it. But it’s also your responsibility to supply something that goes beyond the ‘want’ factor. It’s better for you and better for the environment. For a product to be worth it’s manufacture, it should be useful or informative – something that serves a purpose. It’s even better if that purpose is more than your advertising message. Then the product will be useful for both you and your client or customer, making it last longer and more worth the energy and materials spent to create it.

Manufacturers globally are creating merchandise that is environmentally conscious all the way from design to dispatch. Ask us how to access these products for your brand.

Biodegradable is better

There’s a wad of garbage three times the size of France floating between Hawaii and the rest of the USA. It is primarily made up of plastic. 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic – and that’s only 34% of the total amount of plastic in the ocean. The Ocean Clean Up has some interesting but scary figures about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Take a look for yourself (The Ocean Clean Up – Great Pacific Garbage Patch).

Plastic alternatives are freely available, as we’ve mentioned in a few previous blogs. Products made from biodegradable materials will have a significantly reduced impact on the environment should they end up discarded. Natural materials like cotton and jute, recycled paper and cardboard, bamboo and cork are fantastic substitutes to plastic. They are commonly used in promotional bags, notebooks, pens and home wares. These environmentally compatible products reduce your company’s footprint and help you stand apart.

Sometimes environmentally friendly promotional products have a larger price tag. They also have greater worth outside of the numbers. As expressed in an article by the American Marketing Association,

‘Is it worth spending extra on better-made products when people seem willing to snag whatever you lay out? Yes: Because consumers don’t make emotional connections with junk.’

Your brand isn’t garbage, your promo shouldn’t be either

What have you thought when you’ve seen promotional products are sticking to crumbs at the bottom of a conference bag, kicked partially under a table or poking out of a trash can in full view of all passers-by? Obviously, you don’t want your brand to be associated with anything in that condition. Your promotional products are gifts from you to your clients. You’re showing your clients and prospects what their business is worth to you through the products you give them. Think of your products’ perceived worth. It increases with a product’s relevance, fit to purpose and the emotional connection mentioned earlier.

Give relevant products that tell a story. Whether that’s your story or the story of what your recycled products used to be. The telling of it creates a further emotional connection that helps people hold on to your product.

Environmentally Friendly Promotional Products

Products like the below are made from natural or recycled products. They’re suitable for festivals and other events and will leave a better impression that those trodden underfoot by the crowds.

  • Cork reusable coffee cup
  • Recycled paper notepad
  • Seed pencils
  • Bamboo Pen
  • Watering can
  • Branded fruit
  • Bamboo cutlery set

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of an upcoming event. All the opportunities that you could seize with well-placed branded merchandise can sometimes make you go overboard with the giveaways. Instead of giving into the voice that tells you to ‘buy all the things!’, think about what your customers need and what they’ll use again and again. If you can get that product made from recycled or biodegradable materials (almost anything is possible), that’s even better. Environmentally friendly promotional products are a step toward more sustainable practices. They’re worth it to you, it means a lot to your clients, and we love to see greener products out and about.

Let us know how Impact can help you choose environmentally friendly promotional products or follow us on LinkedIn for more inspiration.

Which bag is better for our environment

Paper, Natural Fibre Or Non-Woven Bags – Which Is Better For Our Environment?


Which bag is better for our environment

Countries around the world have joined the effort to curb plastic use, especially single-use plastic bags. Most Australian states have implemented the plastic bag ban, which has resulted in billions of light-weight plastic bags being kept from landfill and polluting the environment. Upwards of 5000 tonnes of the problematic plastics have been saved by one grocery chain alone.

With these bags out of action, the humble tote bag has risen significantly in the promotional product space. Companies have recognised the need for durable and reusable bags, but have been torn between a traditional paper bag, a natural fibre bag made from cotton, jute or bamboo, or a hardy non-woven polypropylene bag.

So which is better?

Paper

Since the plastic bag ban, many have demanded we return to the way things were done in the past. The image springs to mind of a shopper coming home with their arms filled with paper grocery bags, a baguette sticking out of one and celery out of another.

Modern consumers have questioned the durability of these bags however, acknowledging how a blowout would send those groceries all across the floor. Luckily, paper bags aren’t all flimsy and handle-less. Today’s promotional paper bags are made of tough, 120gsm+ kraft paper with flat or twisted paper, or rope handles.

In terms of the environment, we all know how paper is made; from raw wood, pulped and pressed. Because of their natural source, paper bags are easily recycled and break down quickly in landfill. However, the production process requires water and energy, more water and energy than plastic. Paper bags are also weightier than plastic and so require more energy to transport.

The production of paper bags, even if the wood is sourced responsibly, has a greater environmental impact than plastic. However, paper bags do not threaten the environment when they are discarded.

Natural Fibre

Cotton, jute and bamboo bags are the next favourite plastic alternative for the same reason as paper bags. They’re made from natural, responsibly sourced fibre that is biodegradable. A natural fibre bag is easily washable and will hold just as much, if not more than the single-use plastic bags of the past. It has been said that they can hold upwards of 10kgs!

Between cotton, jute and bamboo, cotton is the least environmentally friendly because of the water and pesticides used in its production. Reports state that to neutralise its environmental footprint, a cotton tote bag would need to be used 7,100 times.

Jute is the unrefined version of hessian and is known as the ‘Golden Fibre.’ It requires very little water, pesticides and land for its production. Its long and strong fibres means a jute tote bag will outlast others, decreasing its footprint further with each use.

Because bamboo is a fast-growing plant, it is an easily sustainable resource, perfect for consumable products like bags. Like jute, bamboo is naturally bacteria resistant and does not require pesticides in its production. It also uses very little water to grow.

Non-Woven

A non-woven bag is made from polypropylene and, because it is not woven, has the same feel as a canvas bag. These are the green and red bags available at grocery stores for 99 cents. Non-woven bags can be made from recycled plastic, but need to be reused 11 times to nullify the emissions produced by their manufacture.

Non-woven bags are machine-washable and durable but almost all will take over 1,000 years to breakdown in landfill. The good news is, there is now an independently tested, biodegradable non-woven bag available that is chemically treated during the manufacturing process to become *biodegradable in microbe rich municipal landfills (*ASTMD5511). You can access the test and results here https://www.astm.org/Standards/D5511.htm.

So Which Is Better For The Environment?

This is a question that has been asked since well before the plastic bag bans. Concern for the Earth has turned consumer focus to the way they use plastic and its effects on the environment.

While natural products seem the logical choice for ‘most environmentally friendly’, they aren’t always. The resources used in growing and the manufacture of natural products can have more of an impact that those needed for the non-woven polypropylene. However, in terms of what we leave behind, natural products will degrade once discarded, while plastics can be recycled but will not breakdown in our lifetime.

To choose which bag is best, you have to decide what your priority is. Is it reducing your carbon footprint? Or is it protecting our ecosystems and wildlife?

If you have any reducing, reusing or recycling tips, please share by commenting below.