Sophie Zezula, 10, unveiled her “Snow Straw” at a Ridgefield invention convention five months before American cities began outlawing plastic straws and five months before lawmakers in other Connecticut towns like Hamden and Stonington revealed that they were pondering a ban.
From her dining room, in front of her poster board that displays the nuts and bolts of her invention, Zezula said that she dreamed up her straw made of ice back in January.
“A few years ago, my mom showed me a video of plastic going into the ocean and hurting marine animals,” Zezula said. “That really inspired me and my sister to try to do what we could to protect the environment and eliminate plastic.”
Tiffany Zezula, Sophie’s mother, recalled the first time her daughter introduced the idea behind the snow straw to her family.
“Of course we were talking always about the different problems that are out there,” Tiffany Zezula said. “And then to watch that spark and to actually see her invent and to say ‘What about ice?’ All of us at the table said ‘That’s brilliant. That’s it.’”
Plastic pollution has been a problematic environmental issue for decades, but the conversation surrounding bans had yet to reach a fever pitch—that didn’t happen until the city of Seattle, Washington’s ban of plastic straws earlier this summer.
Zezula’s prototype, the one that was displayed with the finished Snow Straw product five months before Seattle ditched plastic straws, is an ingenious combination of simple household products.
“It’s just a tube with a stopper on the bottom so the water doesn’t leak through the tube,” Zezula said. “Inside the tube is a meat skewer. The meat skewer is what forms the hole in the ice. And then, to balance the meat skewer in the middle without it tilting to the sides, I take tin foil and wrap it around the meat-skewer so it holds the meat-skewer in place.”
After the straws go through a deep freezing process in Zezula’s home, she places the straws in a bucket of dry ice to keep the straws from melting before use.
It’s biodegradable because it melts after you use it.
Since straw bans became a thing, criticism has come from advocates in the disabled community. They say bendable, plastic straws need to remain available to those who need them. While Zezula has yet to find a way to address the needs of people with disabilities, she said her intent is to provide the public at-large with an alternative to plastic.
“Banning straws is not my position,” Zezula said. “My position is to make a choice for people.”
In May, Sophie placed second at her local convention. And then she went all the way to nationals. Now, the Zezula family is looking to patent Sophie’s invention.