Handmade bamboo straws have made their way from Thailand to the UF International Center.
UF Study Abroad Services began selling bamboo straws for $1 each from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday in its office in the Hub, said study abroad adviser Anuja Parikh. Payment is accepted by cash or Venmo.
Parikh said the office wants to promote on-campus sustainability and studying abroad in Asia without handing out plastic trinkets.
“I was pushing for the straws because it’s not a useless giveaway,” Parikh said. “Students will take it and actually use it, hopefully.”
The straws are made by Boo Boo Bamboo Straw, a company founded by a Burmese refugee named Jing who fled to Chiang Mai, Thailand, 20 years ago, Parikh said. Jing named the company after her son, Boo Boo.
While Parikh lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for two years, she discovered an American-founded restaurant called Free Bird Cafe, where Jing is a chef. The cafe raises money for Thai Freedom House, a nonprofit organization that helps Burmese refugees who are fleeing ethnic cleansing learn English, find jobs and get their GED, Parikh said.
The organization’s most recent project helped refugees create environmentally friendly businesses, Parikh said. Boo Boo Bamboo was the first small business to be founded in January. Village elders make, polish and etch “UF Study Abroad” on the straws by hand.
“The elders of her village and family can do everything comfortably from their table, while being paid fair wages, instead of hard, manual farming work,” Parikh said.
The money raised from selling the straws will go toward the Study Abroad Peer Advisor Scholarship for students with mentoring experience who study abroad during the summer, Parikh said.
Faith Elyse, a 19-year-old UF visual art studies sophomore, said she practices sustainability by going vegan and ditching plastic as much as she can.
She said she carries her water bottle with her everywhere to avoid using a plastic straw and wants to support the bamboo straws to reduce waste.
“I practice sustainability because saving this planet starts with us,” Elyse said.