Seattle was first. Then came Starbucks. San Francisco followed. Even as some contest plastic straw bans are a measly environmental move, they’re gaining steam. Portland hasn’t enacted one yet, but the city has until October 1 to craft a plan to cut down on plastic waste.
Danielle Elsener and Clayton Haun are getting ahead of that deadline. The Portland couple just launched what they claim is the first reusable straw to double as a piece of jewelry. Meet Dräenk, a reusable stainless steel straw you can wear around your neck on a sterling silver chain—and then plunge into your iced coffee or highball, resting easy that you won’t ever clog a sea turtle’s nostril.
“It’s kind of silly,” says Elsener, explaining the company’s name* stems from a late-night conversation. “But we’re just having fun with it.”
Though there’s levity to the endeavor, both Elsener and Haun come to the project with chops. Elsener is an apparel designer—she most recently worked at Nike—with an interest in zero-waste and sustainable design. Haun, meanwhile, works at a company that makes forged carbon fiber rings. Dräenk was born when Elsener was looking for a reusable straw she wouldn’t forget at home. A slim metal one struck her as decorative: “kind of like some weird, minimalist jewelry you could see some Instagram girl wearing,” she says. She picked up the parts—the first straws, all eight-inch stainless steel tubes, came from Kitchen Kaboodle on Northwest 23rd, and the sterling silver chains from a nearby jewelry shop—and made a few prototypes, learning to solder in the process. Wearing it around town, Elsener says positive response was immediate: "People were like, 'I would totally buy that.'"
“I’m not a jewelry connoisseur by any means, but just being in the fashion industry, you have that greenlight that goes on when you have struck something big,” she says, adding that she’s continued to source the parts locally.
The operation ramped up this month, and Elsener says she’s seen a steady trickle of orders, plus some wholesale interest—even a coffee shop in Bali reached out. The necklace, which costs $35 (or $40 with the nylon cleaning brush), is currently available only online, but the duo is in conversations to sell it in local boutiques and cafés. They’ve applied for a patent, too.
Where will Dräenk go from here? Elsener predicts reusable boba tea straws are the next frontier—she’s currently working on a custom order for a gold boba tea straw necklace—and can imagine expanding to five-inch cocktail straws. (Editor's note: as of August 26, Dräenk now sells both boba and cocktail straw necklaces.) She and Haun have discussed using silver chains with a bigger gauge, for a brawnier look, and thanks to Haun’s work, they’re also exploring the possibility of carbon fiber straws. Says Elsener: "I'm keeping my eyes open."
*Yes, that “äe" in “Dräenk" will look superfluous to German speakers.