By Tim Whyte
A few months back, I wrote a column lamenting the fact that my daily (unsweetened) iced tea from the Circle K near my house was no longer coming with a straw unless I requested one at the cash register.
I was objecting to the legislative climate that has California politicians running to deprive us of every possible piece of plastic. And, they’ve got their eye on our beverages, too, with legislation being contemplated that would deny us the ability to choose for ourselves whether we want a 16-ounce beverage or a 32-ounce one.
The nanny state is running amok.
I got mixed feedback on the column. Some agreed with me that California’s seemingly never-ending efforts to regulate our daily lives have overstepped the realm of reason. Others thought I was an environmental charlatan.
A few weeks later, an unexpected package arrived at the office. It was from Circle K’s headquarters. Inside was a note that said how much they liked my column, and they thought I might enjoy some Circle K “swag.”
Included were hard plastic reusable Circle K Polar Pop cups in three sizes: 32-ounce, 44-ounce and, the Mother of All Polar Pops, the 100-ounce behemoth. Also included were two reusable plastic straws.
It posed an immediate ethical dilemma. No, not about whether to use single-use straws or reusable ones. This particular dilemma was of the journalistic variety. See, in this business, we really aren’t supposed to accept gifts from news sources or subjects.
I briefly contemplated whether to return the Polar Pop swag along with a note to the kind folks in the Circle K marketing department, explaining that I couldn’t accept the gifts. But then I started thinking about the cost and hassle of shipping them back to Circle K headquarters, versus their actual value.
So I kept them. Yes, I am weak. And cheap.
Then a funny thing happened. I gave the reusable Polar Pops a whirl. I dipped my toes in the water with the 32-ounce model, and it did the job just fine. The tea stayed cold all day and the ice took a good amount of time to melt. The reusable plastic straw was easy enough to clean.
Or so my wife tells me.
I then added the 44-ouncer to the repertoire, and in the heat of the summer, I’ve even taken to toting the 100-ouncer and using it to refill the smaller ones. No, I don’t really consume 100 ounces of iced tea every day. But it gives me comfort knowing that, if I want it, it’s there.
Next thing you know, several months have gone by and I have not used any single-use plastic straws. And, I haven’t been throwing away the disposable single-use cups.
Gotta be honest. Despite my earlier rant, I feel better about myself for not throwing away all those straws and cups. And, I still get my daily dose of unsweetened, non-carbonated icy tea goodness.
The key, though, is that I’ve done it voluntarily. I still believe such things should be our choice, not the government’s.
And believe it or not, sometimes, properly armed with the right information — and maybe some unsolicited swag — people will make good choices for Mother Earth.
Tim Whyte is editor of The Signal. His column appears Sundays. On Twitter: