Straws and sustainability

Posted on 17 Sep 2018

Straws and sustainability

A short summary and some suggested solutions


It could not have gone unnoticed that the University of Groningen pays increased attention to environmental sustainability. As a study association, it is important that we adhere to our university, which means we have to adapt to the university's needs. An adorable new building, the Energy Academy, has been built for us to study ever so relevant matters that mean to advance our planet's durability. I would like to address one of these matters in this blog: the European ban on single-use plastic, especially the ban on plastic straws. I picked out this measure because the use of single-use plastic is so common that even a study association like ours is disadvantaged! The goal of this blog is to provide advice and to prevent adverse effects on the Francken environment. I advocate an adjustment of our role, and suggest we adopt a pro-active attitude. Admitted, my plans are rather ambitious and adventurous, but we must not adjourn our duty to set a leading example: if we advertise a way to adequately deal with strawlessness, we will be admired by fellow adults. I will present a few measures that our small community can take to prevent having to give up the luxury of having straws available.

Reinvestment of time

One of the main advantages of straws, and de facto the primary reason for existence, is that they help us reduce the time it takes to empty a bottle of beer. In my most sincere estimation, based on some experience, it takes approximately 3 seconds to take a rietad while emptying a bottle without a straw takes about 7 seconds. Some individuals may have an entirely different speed of completing such a task, but it is safe to assume that the straw always makes a difference of at least 4 seconds. This may come across as a small difference, but as Archimedes adeptly observed, arbitrarily large quantities can result form adding small quantities repeatedly. As of the past year, 1053 straws were streeped in the Francken room, so a straightforward computation shows that we collectively saved over an hour of precious time, all because of the presence of straws! I've done some research on how we can best spend the time we have thus won. If you want to reduce the plastic litter in the oceans, a good start is to clean up water nearby. Thankfully, there is a small body of water adjoining the Nijenborgh, between our building and the Aletta Jacobs, in which some brave members have swum during the latest Best of Borrelcie borrel. I suggest that we keep this tradition and that, additionally, these brave members clean all the plastic waste from this water, bringing us closer to a cradle-to-cradle environmental balance. The entire search party combined, this will take less than an hour, such that the straws still generate more time than they consume.

Reinvestment of money

Try as we may, we don't have time to solve the environmental problem all by ourselves. A different option is that we support some other organization that has taken a similar initiative, such as the Energy Valley Coalition, a foundation that is actually located in the Energy Academy. The money in question, much like the time, can be generated solely by our usage of straws. As some of you may know, we buy straws at Jumbo, but this is not optimal. Action sells 200 straws for €0,67, almost twice as cheap as the Jumbo variant, giving a price of €0,00335 per straw. As we have to charge at least €0.01 for any product, the generation of a considerable profit is inevitable. Archimedes' principle can once again be applied, and a calculation yields that the amount of money we earn this way is approximately the value of a crate of beer (annually!). This enables us to supply one crate of beer for a borrellezing organized by the Energy Valley Coalition every year. We're even kind enough to bring it to them (remember that we had some time left from the previous section). It's soothing to know that this crate of beer means something in the global battle against pollution.

The Wubboborrel

To top off the proposed annual traditions, one additional idea was conceived today. Come the day that we must perpetually abolish plastic straws, and it will come, an alternative must be found. Sjieuwe Meesters has shown ingenuity by coming up with the idea of personalized metal straws, each wtih a text chosen by the owner inscribed. Somewhat inspired by the celebrated comeback of the personal Francken mug, which is slowly but steadily regaining popularity from the paper cup, this personal straw could displace the plastic straw for good. The endless re-usability of this straw makes its purchase a better decision, money-wise, after every rietad. It is currently estimated that the metal straw is worth the expense after 38 usages. In order to popularize this new object, we propose the Wubboborrel: a borrel oriented towards the newly acquired metal straws and sustainability in general. On this occasion, participants can browse to create reasons to test their very own straw, clean up the Francken room or play a game of superbussen.


Far too often we take the plastic straws, the cool temperature, the edible food, the excellent hygiene and the overall pretty terrible conditions in the Francken room for granted, but all of this can change once we grow inattentive. The future of sustainability, the subsistence of our beloved habitat, lies in our own hands. If your responsibility in this global project turns out to be a rietad, why not take it?


Do you have better ideas on how to make Francken a more sustainable association? Good for you! Adios!

Written by

  • Steven Groen