It's the Environment, Stupid.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Starbucks made me feel less guilty

I don't really like to broadcast the fact that I stop in to Starbucks every now and then. But this morning I did - mainly because I needed coffee, it was on the way, they take credit cards for purchases under five bucks, and the coffee at the bodega nearby sucks. I do have organic, fair trade coffee at home that I could have made in my french press before leaving the house, and I also have a blue, stainless steel 'commuter' mug I normally take with me everywhere that would've saved on the disposable red, holiday cup, but I was in a rush to get out the door, my mug wasn't washed (excuses, excuses...)

I spent a good three years of my life working for the coffee giant, and at one point was in charge of the paper order for my store (cups etc). We'd go through A LOT of tall (12oz) cups (this was in the days before the 20-ouncer), not to mention the associated plastic lids and scores of napkins. Given the number of Starbucks in the US (and the world) the amount of paper cups, napkins and sleeves (those things designed to go around the cup to keep your hand from burning, reducing the need for a double cup) used daily is mind blowing.

So, as I topped off my (non-fairtraded) coffee with a little (hormone laden) milk, and vowed (again) to remember to bring my personal mug next time, the message on the sleeve caught my eye, "First ever 10% post-consumer fiber cup. 60% post-consumer fiber sleeve."

Wow. "First ever" is a big claim, and I'm sure I have read about this somewhere before, more than likely in one of those full page NY Times ads. But there was more, "Starbucks is committed to reducing our environmental impact through increased use of recycled post-consumer materials. Help us help the planet." And on the cup itself, "Made with 10% post-consumer recycled fiber." The good green vibe didn't stop there, even the napkins had a little message, "Less napkins. More plants. More Planet. Less Napkins."

Making disposable items less bad is okay in my book and Starbucks is big enough to make changes on a large scale that can affect such industries so that other disposable cup purchasers can easily follow suit. But even if the skeptics are right and it is merely a PR ploy to get consumers to associate Starbucks as an enviro-friendly company, it does serve an educational purpose. Who knows, if every customer reads the cup/sleeve/napkin they take away, there's a possibility they might look for this label on other products they purchase.

I will bring my own mug next time, but this time I guess I carried a little less shame/guilt for supporting Starbucks and perpetuating the disposable culture knowing that a little post-consumer fiber was involved.

For more on the grand Starbucks debate check out green LA girl, who also did a little coffee tasting review for (I think it was) GOOD magazine.


  • I've been to Seattle a few times in my life and I prefer Seattle's Best coffee to Starbucks. However, I like that Starbucks is trying to make a difference. I love my fair trade coffee at home. My Bodum vaccum press makes a great cup of coffee so I don't ever go into a Starbucks, but if I'm ever in the mood for coffee and away from home I will stop in.

    By Blogger an·noy·ing co·work·er, at 21:31  

  • I definitely agree with your point, a lot of people who care about the environment target big companies with smug *they're bad, we're good* self-righteousness, but even though many of them are hurting the world we live in, they're also some of those who can make massive scale difference while the average person sits in apathy.

    By Blogger Benoit Emile Michaud, at 08:44  

  • I have to say their holiday sleeves look purdy though. I noticed them when glaring at people with Starbucks cups ;)

    By Blogger The Worsted Witch, at 11:53  

  • I wonder if this PR stunt coincided with Seattle's launch of their new "bring the tourists here" campaign? The city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to come up with "Metro Natural". Huh? Obviously thought up by people who don't live here.

    By Blogger Whirling Productions, at 15:42  

  • Starbucks owns Seattle's Best coffee....

    By Blogger Michelle, at 14:31  

  • Viral campaign

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:47  

  • I'm going to be hedonistic here...Does anyone notice how different it feels to put your lips on the new lids? I'm all for the 10% fiber but it definitely feels weird. I mean this was dramatic for me today when I'm used to a smoother lid to drink my coffee from.

    By Anonymous Samantha, at 16:20  

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