The Bamboo Breakthrough


For a pair of enterprising teens, great ideas do grow on trees

Cove Alford was playing in her Jupiter backyard when she discovered a way to help make the world a little greener.

“I noticed we have an insane amount of bamboo in our yard,” the 13-year-old says. “It was pretty thin at the top, and I remembered my dad telling me it was hollow in the middle, and then I thought, that would be cool to use it as a drinking straw.”

Watching individuals and businesses around her looking for replacements for plastic straws, Cove partnered up with her friend, Lauren Boulanger, to look into her idea for making bamboo straws.

With the ember of a business glowing, the girls started looked into the environmental impacts of straws and other plastics—they were particularly moved by how sea turtles right off the Florida shore were ingesting plastic. The two also researched bamboo and whether it was a safe material to use.

Soon, Cove and Lauren were using clippers and hedge trimmers to cut the tops off the bamboo trees to create three sizes of straws. With their samples in hand, they gave them to teachers and students at Jupiter Middle School.

“We wanted to make sure that people would like them,” Lauren says. “They told us they’re very good straws, but the edges had been bothering them. After that, we were really dedicated to making sure the straws are very smooth, so we actually use three different types of sanders.”

After clipping the straws, the edges are sanded down with coarse and fine sandpaper, then the finishing touches are sanded by hand. With their product perfected, Cove and Lauren started selling their straws at school. They’re also available for purchase at One World Zero Waste in Tequesta and Inside Out Pilates in Jupiter.

“Most vendors are really surprised that we came up with an idea at such a young age,” Lauren says. “They love how much energy we’ve taken into trying to make the environment better…

”Plastic straws go on forever,” Cove says. “It would be amazing if we could get more people involved …”

This story is from the January 2020 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.