Strawelling⁠? What Happens When You Travel With One Straw

Everywhere I travel to, I make sure I’d be strawelling too. But how does this little cylindrical pipe make me carry it along anyway? The first straw I started using was a gift, harmless to say that to practise strawelling was not solely my idea. I began this religiously with a friend as that’s what keeps me going — reckoning that it’s possible. Here are some of the experiences and obstacles that you might encounter when you practise strawelling like me :-

Straws received from a green awareness event
Odd things to try when you are strawelling. Me and my friend, Hajara were given metal drinking straws as momentos for volunteering in green events.

1. Gifted With A Straw From Green Awareness Event

The driving force for me are mainly from peer influence, green awareness campaigns, a viral video of a plastic straw being pulled out from a sea turtle’s nostrils, and a surge in demand for metal straws. To begin with, a tree planting programme I joined last year has Eco Club IIUM distributing metal straws paired up with a cleaning brush to all attendees. Additionally, a campaign brought to my internship company persuaded everyone present to stop using plastic straws. So much so, that the cafeteria stopped providing them ever since.

“It’s just one straw,” said seven billion people.


The quote went as viral as to how true it gets. When you practise strawelling in the long run, you’ll realise how frequent you use it in your everyday life. Since single-use plastics are so easily accessible, you just don’t notice it yet.

2. Non-Genuine Sellers / Fake Branded Straws

Be careful when choosing your drinking straw as there are differences in actual campaigns that fight for the cause to reduce waste and those who are merely profiteering! Fake products don’t follow best practices and may even use dangerous or unsafe materials. With the sudden spike in online shopping searches, these metal straws packed in plastic wrappers pop up too. So instead of reducing waste, they’re creating even more. Hence, do opt for recyclable medium — a food-grade type such as stainless steel, glass, silicone, bamboo or paper are the most commonly used medium.

3. Irony Of Listening To: “No It’s Okay, The Straw Is Free”

Plastic straw given in hawker stalls.
In my mind: “I don’t need a straw.” Probably in the waiter’s mind: ” YES, YOU DO!”

Well…well…well… Clearly the local awareness of why this nation is starting to ban plastic straws is still ambiguous. This remains true to some hawker stalls, when I offered to use my own straw along with the drinks I ordered. Some waiters would say, “It’s okay, it’s free” or “Just take it”. It felt funny and bizarre at the same time as no matter how many times you refused them, they’ll still think if you don’t need to pay for that non-recyclable waste, so why not just take it?

On the other hand, some eateries rule it out by stating ‘straws will be provided upon request‘, not by default.

4. Touch-Not My Straw

Brought my own metal straw to Starbucks.
Strawelling was easy on cafeterias that join this movement. Starbucks still provides paper straws to their customers — until you (are welcomed to) reject them.

Some cafés deem it appropriate to offer individually wrapped straws along with the drinks you ordered. Somehow last week, I stumbled upon a restaurant in Aeon Wangsa Maju Mall where the waiter was giving out two pieces of naked plastic straws with his bare hands… my eyes went wide… For one with hygiene concerns, I could barely look at it! In another incident, I declined their plastic straws, yet the waiter misheard me and gave me two straws instead. (Hmm… Did I not speak loud enough?)

5. Simply Say “No Straws Please”

Let’s make this simple. If you don’t need it, avoid using it. I used to switched my bag once, turned out I forgot to take along my straws so I ‘punished’ myself by not using them, I mean…what’s the harm?

Answer: Single-use straws would fail the cost-benefit test, as for an average use of 20 minutes, plastic straws are left to stay around for another 600 YEARS.

6. A High-End Sipping Experience

A view Kuala Lumpur Tower during dusk matching with the colour of orange juice paired with a metal straw.
Nature always wears the colours of the spirit. To embrace the beauty of nature, one must come with the intention to protect it.

Some cool things are serendipitous. I noticed the drinks I sipped tasted better passing a medium that’s exclusively metal.

A top view of colf Guava kiwi juice drink with my metal straw
A glass of iced Guava-Kiwi juice, and a straw to sustain its freshness coming down through your throat.

Furthermore, the sipping makes cold drinks feel even colder. Did you know, a simple plastic manufacturing process which takes seconds to produce a straw costs mere cents. Hence, if you are using your own nondisposable straws, be proud of yourself as you have just set your own luxurious standard — a zero waste standard.

7. Bring A ‘Straw-Pic‘ Of Discussion To Your Meetups

Discussing with friends about straws at the Heliport
Enjoying the good company of a couple of friends from Canada over some chilled beverages, while beholding the iconic Kuala Lumpur Tower at dusk.

I don’t force my practice on anyone. Nevertheless, be prepared if you’re bringing out your own cutlery to meetups, as you are likely to call attention to yourself. It’s good to mention the practice that you have, and how you would love a green culture. Fact check – only about 9 percent of all plastics ever made has been recycled — it is the statistic of the year. The more conscious you are of the plastic waste you are dumping into the environment, the more you’ll be bothered at everything you see wrapped up in plastics. Eventually, you can slowly make a difference to save the environment by refusing plastics as a part of your lifestyles. Good job!

8. New Idea For Presents – A Straw That Travels With You

From right angle to straight, from metallic colour to glossy hue, from bendable to flexible, from silicone to bamboo. There are various shapes, material and colours in store that might suit your taste, or probably your friend’s taste? Here’s one I received from Florence Kha that inspired me more so to write this article.

A two piece metal straw in a plastic case
A two-piece metal straw: screw both pieces up to extend its length or store them in a cute handy case, easy enough to slip inside my bag, Thanks Flo!

Strawelling to save the world? It might sound like a small action, but as my teacher Habib Ali used to advise, “If you can’t do everything, don’t leave everything out!”

For an interestingly peculiar choice of a gift, metal straws can be a great idea. Do check out some here:

  1. Life Warehouse
  2. Paradigm Global Marketing

About Amirah HENG

Engineer by profession, but a total nature lover at heart. If you can't find Amirah at her cubicle, she's probably hiking up a mountain somewhere, trekking through a jungle, or backpacking off the beaten path.

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