What’s So Threatening About a Plastic Straw?

David, replacing plastic straws with glass is definitely not the first thing I think of when going green.  It just goes to show how small green can go.

Name: David Leonhardt, Owner/Founder

Company:  GlassDharma

What’s your personal definition of greening? 

Anything that promotes and contributes to our environment in such a way that it improves all of life on our planet.

How did you get started in green business?

My wife, Gail and I left the corporate world and moved to the Mendocino Coast in 2006.  I got back into lampworking and worked part time for a glass shop in Fort Bragg and also started my own lampworking business on the side. It was there at the glass shop that I noticed they had glass drinking straws for sale. I had been reading recently about how plastics leach toxins into our foods and knew for quite some time how plastics not only increase our landfill, but so much plastic never even gets recycled and ends up in our environment, destroying wildlife on land and in our oceans.

A plastic straw may not seem very threatening, and to be sure, there are bigger forces out there in our society that seriously need to be addressed. However, my interest was piqued. I started doing research on how many plastic straws are used on a daily basis world-wide. I saw this as an opportunity to make a significant difference. It is not so much teaching people how not to pollute – most of us at least here in California recycle to an extent. What needs to happen is we need to change how we think. How silly is it to have so many single use plastics in our society, knowing how damaging they are, knowing the huge percentage that never gets recycled and not do anything about it?!

I saw that glass straws could be a teaching tool. How difficult is it to learn to say “no straw, please” when ordering drinks in a restaurant? From there, how difficult is it to insist on a paper bag at the grocery store – or better yet, buy fabric reusable bags to bring when grocery shopping? From there, what else are we doing just because that’s the way we’ve been doing it? What if, someday, the concept of single-use plastics is only a dim memory?

What do you and your company do in your own life and operations to walk the walk?

We are constantly looking at our methods and processes to see if we can make our footprint greener.  We receive packing peanuts from some of our suppliers and we make sure they get recycled.  We look at our shipping materials to see if there is anything out there that is better than what we are using.  We use the SiloInk.com system with our inkjet printers that eliminates printer cartridge waste and we use reconditioned toner cartridges in our laser printers.  We rarely print out emails.  We will be redesigning our packaging soon to become more brick & mortar friendly and the materials used will be of primary concern.

What is the best greening advice you can give our customers?

Take it a step at a time and do what you know how to do.  It is easy to get overwhelmed with so much information out there.  Do what you know is right, and if you find yourself off-track, just put one foot in front of the other to get back into your own integrity.

We have been programmed by our society and many of us have a strong sense of entitlement that we don’t even realize that we have.  Becoming aware of that, for many, is the key to be able to discern between a “need” and a “want”.

Keep educating yourself.  One of the best resources I have found is the blog fakeplasticfish.com (Editor’s Note, hey! what about our Green Home Blog or our sister Cleantech Blog?).  There’s a ton of other information out there as well.

Do you really think green products make a big difference and why?

Yes, even if it appears to “only” contribute in a small way.  Take our glass straws for example – I see them more as a teaching tools, awareness tools.  The more we all come on board with a “can do” attitude, the more “environmentalism” becomes mainstream.  When that happens, large corporations and governments start making changes.  This is a simple statement for a rather complex process, but I think you get the idea.

Do you think consumers now are aware green products exist, or is there still a lot more education to do?

People are becoming more aware lately.  For example, if I had tried to sell glass straws 10 years ago, it wouldn’t have worked, so there is definitely an increase in awareness.  But we still have a long way to go.

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