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Starbucks - Left me alone....and they say - Don't Do it Alone!!

>> Tuesday, 20 April 2010

source: starbucks website
Should we trust corporates when they say - They are on with their Green efforts?...Maybe we should not. Starbucks claims that it allows customers to use their own reusable cups and even encourages green practices. Their punch line – Don’t do it alone, doesn’t seem to work in reality.

Their website carries very fancy content on Green issues.But how many really bother?

source: starbucks website
 I was taken by their reports to promote use of ceramic and re-usable mugs and tried to take my own to one of their outlets. As a rule,  if a customer walks in with a ceramic or re usable cup, starbucks employees are supposed to rinse the mug and pour coffee into it.

However, I was refused to be served in my mug- The lady at the counter said that the sanitation department wouldn’t allow use of any other container other than the one sold at Starbucks!...If this is true, how would their motto to go green ever become a reality. Another report claims that Starbucks intends to reintroduce ceramic mugs and increase use of reusable commuter mugs by 2010. I did not know that they offered a $.10 discount to customers who bring in reusable mugs. If all this was true, why would I be refused when I make a conscious effort to carry my mug for my drink?

I don't know how people could ignore this garbage pile when they buy their coffee in disposable cups...Does it never occur as to what happens to all this unnecessary garbage

Starbucks stores use billions of disposable plastic and paper cups, this means an enormous usage of natural resources and energy and then cups land in the landfills and the ocean. The Company claims that their cups contain 10 percent post consumer recycled content. And that, according to the company is estimated to save tens of thousands of trees, half a million gallons of waste water, and several million pounds of garbage. And Starbucks claims to be the pioneer in promoting recycled cups in the beverage retailing industry.

Visit this link on their website to learn more about their programs - Link  

Did you know that FDA (Food & Drug administration, USA) does not support use of recycled material in food retailing industry? Another very important aspect in terms of recycling – Paper cups lined with wax /plastic to hold liquids cannot be recycled in most recycling plants/systems. I am really not sure if Starbucks can ever achieve its target of making all of its cups recyclable by 2012. Corporate GREEN team says that the company is requesting its customers to bring in their own reusable cups or tumblers in order to meet their recycling goal set for the year 2012. Frankly, I am yet to see one single customer buying his or her coffee in their own mug! So in which part of the world are they pushing their Green ideas then?

Whatz really happening
With over 16,000 retailing locations, it is difficult to claim consistency in their efforts. It is definitely difficult for a company with so many globally disperse franchisees to efficiently and effectively implement a recycling strategy. The least they could do is to support conscious consumers like myself.

Money matter a lot to people sitting in the Shareholder boards…blind that they are to any crisis around them, it is a disgrace that the company's shareholders voted down Starbuck’s proposal to increase recycling efforts. ( I am sure Seattle Times would be faking this news ). And why did they make this brilliant decision? Because the finance guys have to create WEALTH for their shareholders!! (really??)

Although the company seems to have started offering discounts to consumers who bring in their own cup since 1985, how come we do not see anything happening on that front? Isn’t the non green population just living to save money or just Enjoy their life?...I am sure if they were given a chance to save a few cents… at least a few of them would oblige to bring their own mugs (for the amount of coffee consumed in the world, specially in the US) It would make a significant difference in terms of number of disposable (plastic and paper) cups used. What amazes me is that the consumer who is aware that he should not buy hot drinks in a plastic cup refuses to think one step beyond and reduce use of paper cups.


Starbucks claims that in 2009, over 26 million customers brought their own tumblers for their cup of Joe…(really!!). This means a meager 1.5% shift from use of disposables and that translated to saving a whopping 1.2 million pounds of paper from being consumed. If this was true, imagine the amount which goes into the landfill due to the million of cups still being used…phew!!...Do you really think you cant make your own cup at home or at least carry your own mug to the café. The least you could do is to choose using their ceramic mugs and have your coffee in store and not bother walking around the mall with your fancy disposable cup.

Another very important aspect of this Industry has not even been discussed yet – The coffee Growing /processing industry and its impact on environment. That makes an interesting topic for a new article altogether!

Painful changes in the Indian scene...
What bothers me is India's growing and booming Cafe culture. Cafe Coffee Day, Barista etc have become a fashion statement of sorts with the Indian Population. I do not have anything any particular brand or product, what pains is the lack of common sense and basic thought towards the impact of every cultural shift
India is going through!

Think before you THINK it is HEP to go to a Cafe and order your coffee in a disposable cup. Think of going green with your choices and let the planet remain habitable!


My Dream Canvas 20 April 2010 at 18:34  

I am very impressed with your research. This is a great post and very thought provoking. Keep it up and Go Green!!

Sudha 20 April 2010 at 18:43  

Thanks anu...i really hope to see some change around me...some day

Iniyaal 20 April 2010 at 23:52  

I have always loathed Starbucks when it comes to paper consumption! As far as I know, their "Going Green" funda is only on websites, not in practical implementation.

Btw, About the growing trend of cafes in India, atleast in Tamil Nadu these Cafe Coffe Day and Barista arte too expensive. We still prefer our home made filter coffee and dicotion coffees :P These cafes are mostly visited by youngsters who dont have a place to chat for hours with their friends. One of the Cafe coffee day outlets in Coimbatore is famous among college goers cos you buy a cup of coffee and they let you sit there for close to 6 hours :)

Sudha 21 April 2010 at 15:58  

Unfortunately, i see a lot of momentum in terms of growth in cafes and their businesses in most metros :( and that is enough to create a lot of green challenges

Iniyaal 22 April 2010 at 23:58  

True Sudha... Cafe outlets are growing in metros. And seeing it from a green enthusiast's view, yes it is true that their growth itself does create more green challenges.

Anonymous 11 May 2010 at 03:26  

Hi Didi,

About this disposable cups, my company wants to go green by removing paper cups and making it mandatory to use your own ceramic cups. It amazed me to see the percentage of people who were against it. I heard discussions in canteen about what hu-ha this whole go green thing is which is causing discomfort to employees. People find it a huge trouble to wash their cups. I wonder how they, their parents and grand parents lived before they joined these IT companies.
If Indians can take after the clothing culture, the coffee cafe culture, I wonder if they will ever take up the on-time culture from west !!


kenn q. 20 August 2010 at 00:08  

we all know that we can't really avoid plastic cups as we'll be needing it somehow. by reusing and recycling, it can really help us to save our earth, and to have a good environment, right?

Sudha 20 August 2010 at 00:30  

hi Kenn
I am unable to agree with your view about "can't really avoid plastic cups"..i have eliminated use of disposables completely (step by step)...and the journey continues....recycling is expensive and is not worth all the effort and energy used. pl do research further on this debate and you will be surprised.

thank u for sharing your view..this blog is a documentation of my green journey...more inputs ...the merrier...

take care

Divya Shankar 9 November 2010 at 03:16  

Sudha, I am all praise for you. I am glad that I have found some voice for some very strong opinions that I have. I totally understand why you fume at the picture of disposed coffee mugs. I only don't understand why it does not occur to others. I accept what Iniyaal has said in comments above, CCD and Barista outlets are fast mushrooming in the metros and urban centres. Still people in India have not begun to completely ape their western counterparts and prefer tea in glass tumblers from local stalls, filter coffee in steel tumblers. There are many places where to make the job of cleaning easy, these local vendors use very thin micorn harmful plastic cups. That gets very irritating and is a very harmful trend. As far as CCD and Barista go, people come there more to sit and chat,there are ceramic cups used and guess they do not add to the litter much as take aways are even less than 0.1% in these outlets.

Alexa 13 September 2012 at 12:26  

I just wrote to starbucks on their site and told them i will not drink another starbucks drink until they change that policy and use customers own cups i also emailed them the link to this info on your page and told them i will spread this news to all others on my site which gets lots of attention GOOD FOR YOU LETTING US KNOW THIS INFO THANK YOU AND MANY BLESSINGS TO YOU FOR DOING WHAT YOU DO!

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