A new eco-friendly start-up in La Jolla aims to help conserve the coast

Founders John Weil and Brian Ruthenberg
Founders John Weil and Brian Ruthenberg

La Jolla residents John Weil and Brian Ruthenberg were at the beach one Saturday morning when they noticed plastic straws tangled up in the seaweed and rolling along the sand in the breeze. With the personal drive to make a difference—but with limited resources—Weil and Ruthenberg decided they had to do something about it. They created a concept and invested everything they had into their start-up business. That day, a new and innovative La Jolla-based company was born: Sand Straw, a colorful collection of animal- and eco-friendly straws that help save the ocean, beaches and parks.

Sand Straw is a lightweight, Grade 304 stainless steel straw. It is food- and dishwasher-safe and reusable. Available in a rainbow of bright colors, these new straws take the place of the plastic and paper straws now being phased out by most restaurants. They are also a perfect complement for a favorite travel mug and an ideal way to share in protecting the environment.

With every sale, Sand Straw donates 10 percent of the profits to support marine life. Each straw is a different color and supports a different sea animal that is affected by plastic waste. The Dolphin Straw is blue, The Turtle Straw is gold, The Fish Straw is black, The Sea Lion Straw is silver and The Whale Straw is rainbow-colored. Combinations of colors are available in an Ocean Pack and a Sea Pack and benefit multiple causes. 

“We saw an opportunity to replace environmentally insensitive plastic straws,” Weil said. “This product helps to protect marine life. At the same time, we can donate to help save as many species as possible.”

Weil and Ruthenberg live near the beach in Bird Rock and enjoy the sea life that is a way of life in La Jolla. They have a deep respect for the environment. The young entrepreneurs hope sales of Sand Straw will also help to educate the public. Plastic and paper straws are harmful to the environment and especially to animals. “Everyone wants to do the right thing,” Weil said. “That’s why the online response to our straws has been so strong. It feels good to help sea animals and their habitat.”

In the beginning, Weil and Ruthenberg utilized a ping-pong table in their living room as a workbench. They run all aspects of the company themselves, from determining the colors to marketing through social media, Instagram, Facebook and a website. Products now include a pouch for the straws and t-shirts and hats featuring the attractive Sand Straw logo. Weil and Ruthenberg often sell at farmers markets, including the farmers market at La Jolla Elementary School.

Check out more about this local business at sandstraw.com or follow them on Instagram at @thesandstraw