Sipping soda through a straw

So, I have already let you in on my secret for unbreakable glasses and my friend Amélie has provided you with a green option for endless soda, but something is still missing....Yes, the straw!

Kids especially enjoy straws.
glass in cup
But adults like them too and they have a particular advantage for long, summer drinks: it is hard to inadvertently suck up a wasp if you are using a straw. This may seem a little far-fetched, but wasps are, of course, attracted to sugary drinks and it does not take much to gulp down a flailing wasp (especially if you are drinking from an opaque can). This issue is of particular relevance to me as my daughter has a severe wasp allergy (after having been stung in the mouth: the closer to your head the sting, the worse the reaction).

Anyway, back to straws. We all love them, and they can be had very cheaply at any plastic emporium. Since, however, we suck and chew on them, it would be nice to think that they don't contain anything nasty (I am not sure my local dollar store can guarantee this...). Beyond that, though, single-use plastic really bugs me for its contribution to landfill and carbon/pollution. The solution? Glass straws.

Now I know that sounds a bit alarming since straws don't usually get treated with much respect, but the glass ones I have are (nearly) unbreakable. They are hand blown from borosilicate glass which is very resistant to breaking (the type of glass used for laboratory equipment and kitchen measuring jugs, etc.). The ones I have are made in upstate New York (not so far from me) and sold through this website, for approximately $5 each.

(A note on the website: it is not the slickest looking site, but customer care is good. All payments are through PayPal and, a bit disconcertingly, you receive only a Paypal receipt after the transaction, not a receipt from the site itself. But it all works.)

The site offers a range of straw options (bent, straight, coloured, wide, narrow). I tried a sample pack and I found the standard width, straight, 8" or 10" straws to be the best bet. The `thick' feel of the straw in your mouth does take some getting used to (which is why I don't like the wider straws or the ones with coloured bubbles on the end so much), but the novelty of drinking from a glass straw and knowing that you can throw it (not too vigorously) in the dishwasher after easily makes up for that. It is also nice to think of each straw being handblown in an artists' studio. The optional coloured dots on the straws reinforce this feeling.

One note on cleaning. I would recommend purchasing the cleaning brush that fits through the straw (another $5), as smoothies and thicker drinks do tend to deposit bits that the dishwasher cannot reach.

straw and brush they break? Yes, one of mine did break very early on (not quite sure how as my youngest was in charge). But they come with a lifetime guarantee. If you email a picture of the broken straw and send another $3 through your PayPal account, you will get a replacement in the mail, no questions asked.

(N.B. I was sent a sample pack of straws to try for this review, but only after having previously purchased a set of straws.)
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Soda water maker: a sparkling, green alternative

This is a guest review by Amélie Crosson.
We have a new toy in our house. It sits on the kitchen counter and when you pull a lever it makes rude noises. It’s a carbonated drink maker—a Father’s Day present for my husband, or “The Faj”, as he’s been christened by his daughter. The Faj loves fizzy water, but he also loves the environment, and between lowering the thermostat in winter, pulling blinds in summer and triaging garbage for recycling and compost, he’s been muttering angrily about the environmental footprint caused by shipping fizzy water in heavy green bottles all the way across the Atlantic. Not to mention that bottled water was, for us, a $700-$1,000 a year habit.

I’m not a mail-order person, so once I knew what I was looking for I went directly to the best kitchen supply store in Ottawa, C.A. Paradis. There they sell the old-fashioned seltzer maker dispenser—the comedic prop made famous by Vaudeville and I Love Lucy, but also the more modern Sodastream line of drink makers. They start at C$99 for a plastic model and get sturdier and sleeker in design the more you pay. I went midway and found a smart stainless and grey model that looks elegant on the counter for C$179. Had I wanted a model that carbonates water in glass, as opposed to plastic, bottles, I would have had to pay an extra $100 to buy the Penguin model.

The machine is beautiful in its simplicity: nothing to plug in, just insert the CO2 cartridge, fill the BPA-free plastic bottle (supplied) with tap (or filtered) water, screw it into the machine and pull the lever until it buzzes—and yes, it sounds rude. Nearby children will chortle.

One cartridge provides 60 litres of sparkling water. When it runs out, we take the cartridge back to the store, pay $20 and exchange it in for a new one. So after the initial investment of $179, we pay an average of $20 a month for our 60 litre a month habit. This is easily a third of the price of the bottled stuff plus a lot less schlepping and recycling. (N.B. on the Sodastream website the cost calculation is 30c/litre for carbonated water and 88c/litre for flavoured drinks, post machine-purchase).

Two other advantages:
  • Replacement cartridges and all accessories and machines can be purchased on line.
  • You can tailor drinks to your own requirements, making them as fizzy or as euro-flat as you wish.
    sodastream clear
    You can also buy syrups for around C$7 that flavour up to 20 litres of soda (so that adds about 40c/litre to the price of soda, less if you like just a wisp of flavour). I have not tried the syrups, but there is quite a range from regular to diet and the `clear’ range which has no artificial flavours, colours or sweeteners and includes such delicious-sounding flavours as passion-fruit/mango and kiwi/pear.

So, at this early stage, it seems to me that our new soda water maker will help us reduce our carbon footprint significantly, enjoy our fizzy water, and keep the Faj happy. What more could you want?
(if the answer is “more information” then see this dedicated review site for a really full analysis of the various Sodastream machines and product claims).

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