The War on Straws Comes to Sonoma

Several Sonoma County restaurants and cafes are eliminating plastic straws or replacing them with eco-friendly alternatives.

First it was the plastic bag, now it’s the plastic straw.

A favorite way to sip everything from soda to shakes, plastic straws have recently gained a bad reputation for their negative impact on the environment. So much so, that Oakland is considering a proposal to ban food vendors from serving plastic straws unless requested, while Berkeley is considering a full out ban on plastic straws. And now, the war on straws has come to Sonoma.

ZeroWaste Sonoma County is leading the local fight against plastic straws, promoting “Sip It Sonoma,” a grassroots effort to empower citizens and businesses to say no to straws. In the city of Sonoma, the Community Services and Environmental Commission has been exploring ways to ban all single-use plastic at community events and the Sonoma City Council plans to revise their Special Events Policy regarding single use plastics, including plastic straws.

So what are the environmental impacts driving these bans? Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day. Most plastic straws are used for only a few minutes before they are disposed of, but it can take hundreds of years for these straws to “biodegrade,” or disintegrate. Because plastic straws are hard to recycle, they are rarely accepted by recycling companies. Instead, they end up in the ocean, where they release harmful toxins that threaten the ecosystem, including wildlife. Straws have also been ingested by seabirds, and caused harm to animals in the ocean (for many, this video of a sea turtle with a straw in its nose was – no pun intended – the last straw).

From small mom and pop shops to big hospitality groups, a handful of local establishments are now joining Sonoma County straw wars. These businesses are leading the way by using compostable straws, including paper, or eliminating the use of straws altogether, with the goal to reduce their ecological footprint while educating customers. Below are a few of these businesses.

Perch + Plow, Santa Rosa
One of the newest restaurants in Sonoma County, Perch + Plow has gained a reputation for their pretty craft cocktails, featuring fresh, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. To complement those cocktails, they use paper straws, many of which are as colorful as the cocktails. 707-541-6896, 90 Old Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa,

Flying Goat Coffee, Healdsburg & Santa Rosa
Flying Goat Coffee serves sustainably grown, in-house roasted coffee in Healdsburg and Santa Rosa. Their to-go iced latte, chai and tea are served with paper straws at all Flying Goat Coffee locations. Multiple locations,

Jackson’s Bar and Oven, Santa Rosa
With a bar constantly filled up with locals craving hot wood-fired pizzas and craft cocktails focused around locally crafted spirits, Jackson’s has shifted from plastic stirs and straws to strictly paper upon request. 707-545-6900, 135 Fourth St., Santa Rosa,

Monti’s, Santa Rosa
One of the many restaurants in the Stark Reality Restaurants group, Monti’s serves up Mediterranean cuisine ranging from small plates to big plates, many of which are prepared in their large, wood-fired oven. Head to the patio on Sunday for chicken and waffles, but don’t expect a straw Aperol Spritz or mimosa, they only offer paper straws upon request. 707-568-4404, Montgomery Village Shopping Center, 714 Village Ct., Santa Rosa,

Stark’s Steak & Seafood, Santa Rosa
Big juicy steaks, fresh seafood and old school cocktails rule the roost at Stark’s, the art deco steakhouse in downtown Santa Rosa. It never fails – whether it’s happy hour or not – locals are there sucking down Moscow Mules and other vintage inspired cocktails – but not with straws. Paper straws are only available upon request. 707-546-5100, Railroad Square, 521 Adams St., Santa Rosa, 95401,

HopMonk, multiple locations
Pairing pub grub with local and international beers, HopMonk also has a cocktail program that many love and serves up plenty of waters, sodas and iced teas that are ready to be slurped down with a plastic straw. As of recently, the gastropubs, with locations in Sonoma, Sebastopol and Novato, have removed plastic straws from the menu and moved to compostable straws by request. Multiple locations,

Jimtown Store, Healdsburg
Whether you stop by Jimtown Store to browse proprietor Carrie Brown’s selection of homewares or to taste farm-to-table country food (which, in California, means non-GMO banh mi sandwiches and vegetarian chili), a visit to Jimtown isn’t complete without a glass of fresh squeezed lemonade – served with a paper straw, of course. 707-433-1252, 6706 Highway 128, Healdsburg,

Duke’s Spirited Cocktails, Healdsburg
Repurposing is a central theme at Duke’s – whether it’s a reclaimed wood bar, wallpaper made from old newspapers, or cocktail ingredients sourced from staff members’ gardens. The bar has switched from compostable straws to their current practice – no straws or metal straws, which are reserved for regulars or for bartenders to taste drinks. 707-431-1060, 111 Plaza St., Healdsburg,

Sweet Scoops Homemade Ice Cream, Sonoma
Sweet Scoops declared they were “going green” in March and introduced compostable straws, cups, napkins and reusable taster spoons. “We sure do love our Earth and are doing what we can to reduce our carbon footprint,” says co-owner Ramie Hencmann. Whether you’ve got ice cream or milkshake on your mind – you can now indulge in tasty treats with less guilt. 408 1st St. E., Sonoma,

Amy’s Drive Thru, Rohnert Park
This “runs on love,” fast food restaurant serves up vegetable-based burgers and vegan friendly mac ‘n’ cheese, paired with eco-friendly business practices. Those practices include earth-friendly fast food packaging and paper straws for sipping vegan milkshakes and cane sugar colas. 707-755-3629, 58 Golf Course Dr. W., Rohnert Park,

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, Sonoma
The Fairmont keeps their guests happy and relaxed with luxury amenities, a four star restaurant and a spa known for its natural hot springs. However, there is one thing you won’t get at the Fairmont: plastic straws. “We are continually expanding our scope and taking a more holistic approach to operational responsibility with particular focus on economic, environmental and social priorities,” shares the Fairmont’s Michelle Heston, who says that the Sonoma hotel – along with Fairmont properties nationwide – are transitioning to paper straws. 707-938-9000, 100 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma,

Starling Bar, Sonoma
The Starling creates adult beverages with a backyard-to-bar ethos and innovative techniques – locals and staff bring in seasonally grown produce to create craft cocktails meant to question the norm, including how cocktails are served. “You may have noticed two things at the Starling,” says co-owner Elizabeth Takeuchi-Krist, “your drink doesn’t come with a straw and, if you request one, you’ll be given a compostable one” 707-938-7442, 19380 CA-12, Sonoma,

Slice Shack by Mary’s, Sonoma
Many people have these two things in common: they love pizza and want to be more eco-friendly. If you identify as one of these people, then the Slice Shack is your own slice of heaven. Created by the family behind Mary’s Pizza Shack, the Slice Shack serves jumbo slices on biodegradable trays and fountain sodas in biodegradable cups with paper straws. 707-938-9290, 14 W. Spain St., Sonoma,

Sunflower Caffé, Sonoma
“Keeping it simple, keeping it real, keeping it sunny, keeping it sustainable,” is the motto at Sunflower Caffé. This Sonoma spot prides itself on its efforts to create a more sustainable community – whether it’s by using locally sourced ingredients or eco-friendly products, including compostable straws made from cornstarch, served with their iced lattes and Bloody Marys. “We highly value the importance of reducing our environmental footprint,” says the cafe’s Julianna Ferrara, “small changes make a huge difference.” 707-996-6645, 421 1st St. W., Sonoma,

Cafe La Haye, Sonoma
Sonoma continues to build its reputation as an anti-plastic straw community at Cafe La Haye. The intimate restaurant, a popular spot for foodies, has been offering only paper straws since 2008 – the oldest restaurant in Sonoma to do so. So opt for your water or iced tea without a straw, or be prepared for a paper straw, or just stick to the wine list. Reservations recommended, 707-935-5994, 140 E. Napa St., Sonoma,

The Red Grape, Sonoma
Sonoma restaurant The Red Grape has also gone eco-friendly. The New Haven-style pizza restaurant is popular with families, and the pizza and soda combination is in high demand. But no more plastic straws for your soda here, instead guests get paper straws with their beverages serves up locally made pastas, big salads, and burgers. 707-996-4103, 529 1st St. W., Sonoma,

Do you know of an establishment that is using eco-friendly straws or no longer offer straws? Let us known in an email.