Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fron lips to landfill 364 days a year...

The night before Earth Day I learned that Starbucks has a yearly campaign to give a free fill-up of coffee or tea to anyone who brings in their own reusable mug on Earth Day.

In the words of Shania Twain: that don’t impress me much.

It sounds good, at first. But a closer look and some critical thinking makes it obvious that Bucks isn’t as green as they claim, and in fact this is a great example of greenwashing, when a company tries to appear more eco-friendly than they really are.

Let’s start with the paper cups, which are bleached. Not good. Why don’t they use unbleached cups? And if you think the paper cup is recyclable? Think again.

The cup goes from your lips to the landfill. It’s got a plastic coating, making the recycling process much harder (and the plastic coating nixes its compostability.) Supply creates demand though, and if Starbucks collected the cups for recycling—numbering around three billion a YEAR—recycling centers would respond.

And? There are compostable paper cups in green coffee shops RIGHT NOW…but not in Starbucks.

Coffee shops truly trying to be green will promote reusable mugs and cups. Do Starbucks employees ever ask ‘for here or to go?’ and serve ‘for here’ customers drinks in ceramic mugs?

I’ve never seen that happen.

Bucks also touts on their website that they give 10 cents off customers drinks when they bring their own mug. Even though ten cents is lame, how many people know about the ten cents off? If Bucks really wants to make an environmental change, where are the signs reminding customers to bring their reusable mug or to get their drink in a ‘for here’ mug?

Admittedly, I rarely step inside a Starbucks, but I’ve never seen such a sign.

Clearly, paper throwaway cups are the standard, which is totally backwards. And if you do bring your own mug, baristas often forget that you did and put your drink in a paper cup anyway. Or, they measure your Cinnamon Dolce in a paper cup before pouring into your reusable cup. Both defeat the purpose. Palm to forehead.

Back to Earth Day and the Starbucks free drink promo. Seems like a way to get all warm and fuzzy, like you’re actually helping the Earth by driving to Bucks for a free cup o’joe. It’s a good gimmick, but little more than that.

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