Remember plastic bags? Just a few years ago, they were in every grocery store, and most consumers used two of them at a time. They needed twice as much of the flimsy plastic just to keep their eggs safe between the car and the fridge. Then, regulating agencies swept in and banned most uses of these bags. They’re harder to find in stores, and employees encourage customers to buy reusable canvas bags instead. This trend isn’t just good for the environment; it’s also good for business. By reducing overhead and encouraging customers to make an investment, stores can simultaneously save money and improve loyalty.

The battle for the bag is hardly won, but our nation has made great progress in just a short time. Now, lawmakers and trendsetters are teaming up with a new focus: eliminating plastic straws.

It’s hard to calculate exactly how many straws Americans use, but some experts estimate our nation goes through about 500 million per day. That’s enough to fill over 127 school buses. Most of these plastics can’t be recycled, so they end up in landfills or directly in the ocean. Reducing straw usage is one very simple, very effective way to reduce our population’s carbon footprint.

As the movement away from plastic straws gathers momentum, big corporations are considering some big changes – but as always, these companies move slowly. McDonald’s, for instance, began testing paper straws at several UK locations. However, they also voted down a shareholder proposal to roll out this initiative at 37,000 locations around the world. The corporation’s striped straws are among the most-littered straws in the world, second only to Starbucks’ bright green ones.

Buying cheap straws may seem like the most cost-effective way for restaurants to satisfy their guests – but in reality, there are much more affordable options. For guests dining in-store, restaurants can easily serve drinks without straws, or even with reusable straws. Many companies are starting to sell glass and metal straws to both restaurants and consumers – as this trend takes off, your guests will become accustomed to seeing reusable straws in restaurants, or even carrying their own wherever they go.

This issue gets slightly more complex when we consider how restaurants can eliminate plastic straws in to-go orders. There’s a reason QSR giants have the biggest carbon footprint! Luckily, there are at least two clear options for restaurants that serve drinks in takeout cups. First, as mentioned above, is the growing trend of customers carrying their own personal straws wherever they go. Restaurants might even consider selling these reusable straws, just as grocery stores now sell canvas bags. If this option doesn’t work for your restaurant, then you can easily replace plastic straws with sturdy paper straws, giving your guests an almost identical experience to that of a plastic straw. The texture may be slightly different – but the result is that fewer marine animals will suffer.

If you’re not swayed by the impact this trend has on the planet, or on your restaurant’s overhead, consider this: as plastic straws become less and less popular, guests will come to expect reusable straws at every restaurant. They may even stop frequenting restaurants that offer only plastic options. This is your opportunity to be a trendsetter, and how your customers how much you care about your business’s impact on the environment. This is an unprecedented opportunity for you to win their loyalty and respect.