How To: Make Your Own Bamboo Straws
A week or two ago, I got hitched on Lady Elliot Island, a coral cay in the Great Barrier Reef. Weddings are a magical celebration of love, but they're also pricey and often, incredibly wasteful. In the UK, a tenth of all wedding food is chucked out at each event. The average wedding generates around 180 kg of rubbish, and there's about 2.5 million of these a year.
I met my husband when we worked as dive instructors together on the Great Barrier Reef. Since leaving Queensland, we try to visit the Reef as much as we can and our favourite spot to do this is Lady Elliot Island (Read this to see why we’re so mad about it).
There's only one place to rest your weary head after an enormous day of snorkelling on Lady Elliot, and it's an eco-resort. The island is solar-powered, composts all food and does everything in its power to minimise the impact on the surrounding Reef. The island is a green zone, which is like a highly protected national park of the sea. Because of this, we were not allowed to bring live flowers to the island. We were restricted on how much we could bring with us, which helped us simplify the planning process and avoid unnecessary decorations and other items like wedding favours.
Giving wedding favours out has always seemed like a tacky waste of cash + resources to me. UNTIL my parents hand-made bamboo straws, etched with my hubby (the best part about being married is arguably being able to use this obnoxious word) and I's initials for all our wedding guests *cue happy tears*.
Since I was little, my mum has lovingly grown a jungle in our backyard, full of bamboo and other beautiful plants. My folks literally harvested said bamboo, boiled it up and painstakingly engraved our initials in it. Dad proudly told me that all tools used can be found in the centre aisle of Aldi. Otherwise, 'Libraries of Things', which are places you can borrow items instead of buy, are popping up everywhere. If you don't have the tools listed below, have a quick Google and see if there's one in your local area, or ask a friend or family member.
For the straws:
Young, straight culms of clumping bamboo. We used Alphonse Kerr Bamboo.
A bench grinder or sandpaper
A small round file
For the etching:
An old piece of wood
Here's what to do:
Cut your bamboo into around 20cm lengths using the secateurs. Snip the bamboo towards the thinner end of the plant, where the inner-circle is the perfect width for sipping g&t's through.
2. Bring a deep saucepan of water and half a cup of vinegar to the boil. Add the bamboo and boil for around half an hour.
3. Once the bamboo has boiled, leave it to dry completely before starting the next steps.
4. Grind the ends of your straw using a bench grinder of a piece of sandpaper, so that they're nice and smooth. Splinters and cocktails are not a good combo.
5. File the inner circle of your straw using the file. If you don’t want to personalise them, your straws are ready for sipping!
6. To etch a design into your straw, first, you need to create a way to hold the piece of bamboo in place. By hammering a few nails into a leftover piece of ply-wood, you've got yourself a makeshift workstation.
7. Use the soldering iron to add simple designs to your straw. It might take a few attempts to end up with a result your happy with so make more straws than you need.
8. Make yourself a drink and enjoy slurping it through your hand-made straw you modern-day Macgyver, you.
If you make these, I’d love to hear how you go. Let me know in the comments below.