Join the ELS #nostrawchallenge

Plastic drinking straws are one of the top ten items that litter our waterways. Considering that a drinking straw is rarely a necessity, and that restaurants see significant volumes of used straws enter the waste stream every day, businesses in the Lake Simcoe watershed enthusiastically signed on to participate in the ELS #nostrawchallenge.

When drinking straws (and other litter items) are not disposed of properly, they clutter our greenspaces and enter our waterways. Not only does this make a visit to the beach or forest less enjoyable, it can cause harm to creatures and they can mistake it for food. Once a drinking straw breaks down in the environment, the resulting small plastic pieces are responsible for the release of contaminants that pollute our water.

Initial response to the challenge

At the inception of the #nostrawchallenge, Donaleigh’s Irish Public House  and The Lazy Tulip Café joined on even though they had already started this initiative on their own. Others enthusiastically embraced the #nostrawchallenge and signed up almost immediately when contacted. At present, Ripe Juicery, Il Buco Ristorante, Barnstormer Brewing and Distilling Co., The Farmhouse Restaurant, The Grilled Cheese Social Eatery and The Market Buffet BBQ and Smokehouse, Donaleigh’s Irish Public House, The Lazy Tulip Café, The Lake Country Grill and Creative Cafe Barrie, are among the other participating restaurants. Establishments that joined the challenge after the initial 6 week period include Around My Gluten Free Table.  (Please see the map for the location of these eateries).

What some of the participants said about the challenge

  • Michelle Higgins, Owner, Lazy Tulip Cafe: “As part of our commitment towards sustainability we are no longer automatically serving straws with our beverages.  We are, however, offering our customers the option to ask for one.  And it is not surprising that our customers are totally on board and appreciate the policy!”
  • Don Kellett, Co-owner, Donaleighs Irish Public House: “We are constantly looking for the next step forward.  It is everyone’s social responsibility to make an effort.  One step at a time, Donaleigh’s and other restaurants must move forward on environmental sustainability.”
  • Meghan Attwater, Co-owner, Ripe Juicery: “We 100% already support this initiative, we use recycled corn & paper straws, we have 100% eco friendly packaging at RIPE!”
  • Katie Beauchamp, General Manager and Event Specialist, The Farmhouse Restaurant: “The No Straw challenge is something that suits us here at The Farmhouse and we are excited to participate in this, and any other future green initiatives!”

How does the challenge work?

Participating establishments receive communication templates  that they can reproduce or modify to inform customers about the challenge. They are then asked to track straw use weekly and report back on the number of straws reduced at the end of February.  Participants will also be asked to switch to compostable or paper straws once current supplies run out.

Sometimes changing current practices to be more sustainable takes a long-term approach, or requires a capital investment. In the case of a #nostrawchallenge, there are no barriers and no investment is required. This simple step forward is one way of demonstrating an overall commitment to sustainable practices where-ever feasible.

What can business do? 

This initiative is an open challenge to food service establishments operating in the Lake Simcoe watershed to participate. Even though the challenge ends in February, the need to keep our lake clean never ends and we hope that all involved will continue with a no-straw policy. For more information, contact

How can customers spread the word? 

Customers can spread the word about the challenge to other food service organizations they frequent. When dining at a restaurant where they have chosen to forgo a plastic drinking straw, they can post a photo to social media using the hashtag #nostrawchallenge. Most of all, they can use this initiative as a reminder to consider how they can make a positive difference for the environment by taking at least one small step to protect the environment every day.




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