March 29, 2010 (7:28 am)

Trying So Hard to Be Green… and Then This Happens

by Kristen Suzanne

My husband proudly walks in with his green Starbucks' BPA-free, 100% recycled plastic tumbler...

My husband recently picked up one of Starbuck’s new eco-friendly tumblers, (BPA-free and made from 100% recycled plastic) so that he would no longer be wasting the paper cups and corrugated heat sleeves every time he stops for some coffee. Last night we decided to take a fun trip to Starbucks to enjoy some decaf soy lattes under the stars with our dogs in tow. I grabbed one of the old travel mugs I had around the house so I could participate in saving a paper cup.

My husband went inside to order while I watched the dogs outside at the tables. He came out with the drinks and told me that, despite our best attempts at being green with our travel mugs, it didn’t exactly happen that way. You see, apparently, when a barista is given a travel mug, if he/she can’t remember the order, then the barista can use a specially designed post-it note that matches what the regular paper Starbucks cups look like (where they check off boxes detailing the order’s specifics). They attach the note to the travel mug, make the drink, and remove the note before giving the customer the drink.

... and they still manage to waste more of these.

Turns out, they were out of post-it notes last night, so you know what the barista did? She wrote our orders on two empty Starbucks cups, made the drinks, and then threw the paper cups away. Ouch! WTF? The whole point of using the travel mugs was to reduce. I think that the most she should’ve done was write the order on a small scrap piece of paper, or just simply ask my husband to repeat the order as she made the drinks (there was nobody else in the store, waiting in line, etc.), but… to write each order on a separate cup? Really?? Ai Yai Yai!

Source: LA Times

I don’t mean to come down hard on this particular barista who was just trying to do her job quickly, but this is what happens when people subconsciously think of the cost of garbage as “free.” But on the bright side, the fact that Starbucks now offers eco-friendly tumblers is evidence that the mentality is changing (by trash volume, Starbucks is an offender of epic proportions, but they are also making strides to improve, albeit much too slowly IMO).

If you’re a Starbucks regular, please pick up one of the green tumblers if you haven’t already. Starbucks gives you a ten-cent, “no cup” discount, meaning the tumbler pays for itself after about ~100 cups, and forever thereafter will save you money and the planet, one paper cup at a time.

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  • Rachel

    I know exactly what you mean.. I work part time at Target and I never understand people who bring their own bags but don't tell me about it until I have already used a few plastic bags for their things. Then, they take their stuff out of the plastic, re-bag it in their own bags, and throw the plastic ones away. Um… exactly WHAT does that accomplish? Usually I ask them to give them back to me so I can use them for the next person, and then they act all annoyed. I want to be like, you DO know why you are using reusable bags, right?

  • Fitncrafty

    I think that you should send the link to this post and or a letter to the corporate headquarters. They claim to be 'eco-friendly' and I think they should make more strides in this matter.
    I am not a coffee drinker but happy you are making the effort I wish more people would care!

  • Lauren519

    Wow, that's not cool!!! I rarely go to Starbucks, but I do use a re-usable BPA free travel mug for my own tea. Makes you wonder why they would sell reusable mugs if that's the case. Errg!

  • Rachie86

    I don't frequent starbucks or really any coffee/juice bar anymore. We try to make our own stuff at home, but one thing I love making (because they're simple and easy to make) are the knitted version of the sleeves that come on hot drinks. But I usually just use them around the house on our mugs and cups.

  • Keri – I Eat Trees

    Ahh! I would have almost felt like the drink should have just put in those cups just so they'd not have been wasted completely in vain! I'll have to get one of those tumblers though! It's great that they're trying to reduce!

  • crookedmoonmama

    Oh geez…are you serious? How lame…

  • MissionVegan

    I've been trying to get my husband to take his reusable cup with him in the mornings, but he just won't listen. Aargh! And he goes there 7 days a week for coffee.

    Starbucks annoys me for several reasons, but I still go there. The thing that annoys me the most is that they even charge for soy milk. A drink should be all inclusive– coffee/espresso, syrup, milk. It shouldn't matter what kind of milk you choose to have in your drink, especially when you're paying that much in the first place. I've written them to complain, but it got me nowhere, of course. AND THEN, it doesn't matter what size drink you get, you're still charged 50 cents for the soy milk. Presumably, a tall uses less milk than a venti, but you're still charged the same. But like I said, I keep going back. Shame on me.

  • Frugal Babe

    Grrrrrr! That is so frustrating! I do think that the idea of reusable products is much more common that it was ten years ago, but we sure do have a long way to go.

  • Greg

    If you pay with a Starbucks card, they give you the soy for free. It really adds up if you go to Starbucks a lot!

  • Kristen Suzanne


  • Kristen Suzanne

    I'm not really either. I have a decaf soy latte about once a month or
    less but my husband got into it over the holidays. ;) we like Teeccino
    at home instead sometimes. Coffee (even decaf) is filled with too much
    crap. Lol.

  • Kristen Suzanne

    Lol! That sucks. I hear ya!

  • Kristen Suzanne

    If you use one of their gift card things for your purchases, I believe
    the soy is free when it rings up. :)

  • Laura Cope

    i hate to admit it, but this happened to me ALL THE TIME at Starbucks. i'd order something in a “for here” mug, and they'd write my order on a paper cup then transfer it— until i started speaking up for myself/the environment, at least.

  • Kristen Suzanne

    Good for you in speaking up! That's what we need to do. My husband
    spoke up, so hopefully she'll think twice before doing that again. ;)

  • jennajo

    Same exact thing happened to me, and when I (hopefully kindly) explained to the barrista that the reason I brought my own mug was to NOT create garbage by using a paper cup, this seemed totally foreign to her. Hopefully it's not anymore.

    The soy milks being used by most coffee places have really improved over the past years though – I remember having to stir my hot drinks since the milks separated. Ha!

  • Kristen Suzanne

    Wow, had no idea this had happened to other people. Hmmm…

  • Sofia

    I'm not sure Starbucks is the most ethical of chain coffee shops… We have this problem here in the UK of many companies partaking in 'green washing' (I;m sure this happens in America), when their practices are, frankly, abhorrent, I fear Starbucks might be the same.

    Thank you for posts and blogs and recipes.

  • Barista101

    This really annoys me too – and I work at Starbucks! They are great with their employees, the problem is the communication. It's each employee not thinking about what they are doing – just doing what seems convenient at the moment. To date, Starbucks does not train their baristas to be more eco-friendly and sustainable. I keep having to let the other employees at my store know that the to-go cups are for customer drinks only, not for storing things in, for measuring products with, or to hold product so we can wash the containers they are stored in. Starbucks needs to educate, as part of their intital and on-going training, employees to always do the right thing environmentally. I need to let corporate know, because it is falling on deaf ears within my own district.

  • Kristen Suzanne

    Thank you for sharing that. Your honesty and attitude is refreshing and appreciated. Cheers to you!

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Kristen Suzanne is a Raw food chef and author who blogs about all things green and mommy-related! More...

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