The Quest for the Reusable Straw

I finally found it! A reusable metal straw sitting atop the ultimate refreshing tropical drink. My taste buds and sustainability brain rejoice! But that’s not all. I’ve also found a place that uses biogas produced from food waste to cook the most glorious vegetarian food without the obligatory spoonfuls of sugar and msg found elsewhere; food that is piled with locally grown herbs, greens and edible flowers sprinkled with zingy dressings. A place where children can get their hands dirty in the mushroom farm and hydroponic garden; where there are daily yoga classes to stretch, strengthen and rejuvenate the body and mind; and where profits are invested in local education projects.

You guessed it, I’m not in Ranong (but I’m not far away). This past weekend found me at a welcomed nature escape at Ecologic Thailand. A short bus ride which seemed like a world away from the dusty, fishy and hot city of Ranong. My weekend lodgings are nestled in the singing greenery of jungle, where the sky teems with birds – graceful snow coloured herons, soaring eagles and tiny birds with vibrant golden bellies, spiders the size of dinner plates delicately rig intricate webs between branches and cheeky squirrels chase one another through the greenscape. The night air is soaked with humming insects, laughing lizards and water tumbling endlessly over the nearby pebbled stream bed. It’s kind of like a wee spot of paradise. Apart from the mosquitoes who seem to find my friend’s blood particularly nourishing.

Of course you can’t always bring the beauty of nature into the city. Ranong appears a direct contrast to this place. Even though the city is encircled by dense jungle covered hills, nature in the city is sparse and features a few trees, a smattering of birds and several silted, grimy, rubbish-filled waterways. As alluded to in earlier blogs, plastic waste is common place. From the omnipresent plastic bottle to bags strangling trees to straws resting in gutters. Why do I have to leave the city to find an organisation that actively supports people and nature? Could some of their ethos be integrated into the city? Or is the city too busy, desperate and struggling to accommodate such possibilities? I’ve lived in other places where nature threads more easily through city streets and lives. But here urban life seems so wrought with difficulties of survival and restricted freedoms that convenience seems to outweigh wider environmental and social impacts.

So what did I learn from my weekend away? The importance of nature for soothing the soul. The importance of rest. The importance of connecting with beauty. I wonder about those who can’t escape the city easily like I can – what will they miss out on? How will their view of nature differ from mine? What will it take to replace our convenient plastic with reusable options?

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