Saving the planet for Starbucks customers of the future

            I don’t drink coffee, but that doesn’t seem to put me at a disadvantage when I go to Starbucks, especially with their new chocolate banana thingadingy.  I like Starbucks.  I like that they have comfortable chairs.  I like that they have low-fat options.  I like that their sheer ubiquity makes finding a bathroom when traveling the world feasible.

            What I don’t like is the apparent Starbucks addiction to disposable items.  They own ceramic mugs and they own real plates.  Yet, every time I go in, even if I specify that my beverage or Danish is “for here,” the whippersnapper behind the counter reaches for a plastic cup or a paper bag. 

            It’s for here, kiddo.  I promise I’ll leave the mug behind when I leave.

            This seems a universal across Starbucks’s internationally, although the issue is more noticeable in the U.S.  Sitting in a Starbucks recently, having narrowly escaped a plastic cup, I looked around.  There were ten or eleven other people in the shop, but not one of them had a reusable cup.  Every single one of them was drinking from plastic.

            So, here’s what I am wondering.  Why, in these days of greening and earth-saving, can’t Starbucks try out two new policies?  First, perhaps they could make more of a commitment to recycling, providing separate bins for all those plastic cups in every single store.  And, second, they could train their cute little people in green aprons to ask with every order, “Would you prefer a mug with that, or do you prefer something that you will use once and then toss in a landfill?”

            Now, you know that no business is going to start changing policies just because I think it should do so.  I need a few more people behind me.  Like you and your friends.  You can do this one of two ways.  Either go to the Starbucks comment website and send an email about this issue (and include a link to this post, please, so they know it is a group effort), marking it as “corporate responsibility” issue. Or, please leave a comment for Starbucks today on this post.  Leave a nice little comment telling them that you really would prefer if that company did not have it’s own private landfill.  Even if you never comment, even if you don’t have a blog of your own, PLEASE COMMENT TODAY!   

            Also, please forward this post to your friends, family, and complete strangers.  Please link from your blog if you have one.  I want to collect as many comments as possible before I forward the link on to Starbucks, and I want them to get a tidy little group of emails.

            And, finally, when you next go into a Starbucks – and believe me, there is one near wherever you are – if you are planning on staying, tell the perky youngster behind the counter that you want that latte in a mug.  You may have to say it twice, but hopefully the message will get through.

Please, today restrict your comments to this particular Starbucks issue — I’d like to stay on point here and get the message across!  Thanks.

31 responses to “Saving the planet for Starbucks customers of the future

  1. Yes, this is terrible. Sadly, Starbucks in not alone in this. In Canada, the big coffee chain is Tim Horton’s. Their cardboard cups can’t be recycled or composted b/c they have a plastic liner.

    The Tim Horton’s cup is the #1 piece of identifiable litter in Canada. It accounts for 22% of the litter in the province of Nova Scotia. Any efforts to implement a deposit system that would encourage people to trash the cups responsibly has been thwarted by corporate pressure.

    Something has to change across the board.

  2. I’m on board with this for sure! In Nashville it’s hit and miss. Sometimes they’ll toss your scone right in a paper bag (those little iced vanilla scones – oh dear me!), and sometimes they ask if it’s here or to go, and they’ll use a plate if you’re staying. But always always – you have to ask for a mug.

  3. Well, I couldn’t agree more & it would take them all of 5 minutes to figure this out. Most people would be happy to recycle inside the starbucks if the bins were there – and most people know to take their dished to the bin -at least that is how it works at Panera and Cosi’s…

  4. I’m at the point where I bring my own container into stores for my coffee. Dunkin donuts has no problem with that. I’m not a fan of starbucks coffee (too bitter) I do love the fancy-pants coffee they have.

    Coffee tasts 100x better out of a mug.

  5. Here, here. We too bring our own mugs when we go for coffee, but that’s small potatoes compared to the zillions of green and white cups in the world every single day.

    Besides, mugs are homier.

  6. I don’t ever eat in a starbucks, but I did try bringing my own travel mug. They gave me 10 cent discount, but I don’t think I got as much coffee. I think they could offer incentives, both for the eat in and take out customers to use reusable items.

  7. You would think Starbucks, of anyone, would push for this sort of thing, even just for the good PR–not to mention what it would do for the environment.

    I don’t go inside all that often, but you’ve reminded me to be more insistent when I do.

  8. I’m surprised Starbucks would wait till they’re forced onto the green bandwagon. Come on Sbux – buck up and do something good for your image and the environment.

    I have to admit, taking my OWN mug never occurred to me – good idea.

  9. I usually end up getting a refill while there or I end up with the cup following me to work where I reuse it. It’s just a mindset that others are not looking forward with…

  10. Some (don’t know about all) Starbucks will definitely fill up your thermal cup for you and give you a discount as other people have mentioned. On my local campus it’s $.53 with tax for a refill which is a lot less than they charge with the plastic cup option. It’s definitely worth asking about!

  11. Of course you can (and should!!) ask them to fill your cup, but the issue is not the one person who brings a cup. I wonder about the ten other people in the store who are automatically given a paper or plastic cup. If Starbucks had a policy of asking “paper or mug?” even those without their own mugs might choose ceramic.

  12. Actually, I think when Starbucks first opened, they used to ask that (at least the ones by my house did), but no one ever wanted the mugs.

    (And I must admit to being a bad person. I always get mine in paper cups because I never manage to finish it all in the store (on the rare occasions I stay in the store), and I want to take it with me. Sometimes I remember to bring my own, but not often. I’m working on it.)

  13. Yes. I think Starbucks should be a driving force in recycling.

  14. If I do stop at Starbucks, it’s usually to go but I think it would be great for them to offer incentives that would promote recycling or people bringing in their own mugs. Never thought of it on my own.

  15. Hi Emily
    I definitely will chime in here to lend support for this! I should say that I visit Starbucks a lot these days since that they are baby friendly and have changing tables.

    It would be so much better to have Starbucks here in the UK offer cold drinks in something other than plastic disposable cups. (For coffee they are pretty good about getting the for here orders in a mug)

    And I noticed something very exiting in Pret a Manger that I was going to comment on in your blog about pros/cons of where we live. They have recently instituted much better recylcing in their stores to separate out food waste, paper waste and plastic. Pret claims that they can recycle 96% (I think that’s the figure) of their waste. I was so heartened to see this and I am really hoping that Starbucks will adopt this as well.

  16. from what I understand Starbucks just switched to new cups and lids that are recycled and fully biodegradable. Unless the chick and my Starbucks was misinformed…

  17. and amen to what you said to me, they do need recycle bins

  18. A resounding YES to this suggestion! I much prefer real mugs anyway, and the fact that they’re so much friendlier to the earth is a definite plus.

    We usually visit our local Panera bread on Saturdays, and they do provide real cups and bowls for soup if you’re eating in, as well as real silverware.

    I’ve spotted a young mom who walks over each Saturday, with toddler in tow, and she brings her own favorite cup from home…that’s and idea too!

  19. I always thought the same thing. What a waste! They used to give you a mug and you had to specify if you wanted a to go cup. I wonder why they stopped. I’ll write them a message on their website.

  20. we don’t actually, erm, have a Starbucks here. but even the local hick chain coffee shops have moved towards ceramics for instore customers…and i think that’s good.

    Starbucks, for crying out loud, save some paper.

  21. I will have to look out for this in the UK. The past couple of occasions I’ve been in a Starbucks, I’ve had herbal tea in a ceramic mug without needing to ask. But I will watch closely next time, and indeed visit the website to leave a message.

  22. I don’t go to Starbucks often, but I agree, asking if a customer wants a mug is an excellent idea!

  23. Starbucks: Take a hint from Tully’s and start putting your hot beverages in compostable cups AND offer a special trash can for these in the store. Those cold drinks? Would be EVEN BETTER in a cup and drunk through a straw that is made from corn, therefore, biodegradable. And yes, please let those who choose to enjoy their beverages and snacks in your store use “the good stuff” you’ve got hidden behind the counter. You do that and I’ll make more of an effort to bring my own cup with me when I come in for a visit…

  24. Well now that’s just logical. Less trash, less production and transport, plus it’s gotta be cheaper.

    Compostable/recyclable cups would be a nice compromise for those who do want a take-out cup.

  25. I was disappointed last time I was at Starbucks. My girls wanted water. So they gave me a large plastic cup and when we were done they told me they had no recycling. My oldest, who is very into recycling said “let’s take it home and put it in our recycling container.” So we did. I’d like to see recycling at Starbucks as well as less use of things that need to be recycling.

    I put a link to this on my blog today as well.

  26. I was just thinking this yesterday, when I was in Starbucks.

    I was also thinking they should give you a free upgrade in size for a to-go drink, if you bring in your own container.

  27. I posted a comment on their site and received a response stating that they have incentives for people who use their own travel mugs (i.e. 10 cent discount) and that most of the recycling takes place “behind the scenes.”

    I say, I still want ceramic mugs and recycling containers up front.

  28. YES! I always specify “for here,” not just to be green, but because I prefer the taste of coffee in ceramic. I will say that they do discount travel mugs, which I also try to use. But I wish they would be more upfront about this policy, and push the use of ceramic mugs more. Count me in.

  29. I am circulating a petition to get Starbucks to offer recycle recepticles in 100% of their stores.

    Please go to and sign. You can opt to have your name listed as anonymous (You name will not appear on the web, but it will appear on the printed petition.

    Thanks for any help. Please spread the word.



  30. Back in my SBs days (1991-1999) we ALWAYS had for here cups and encouraged people to use them or bring their own. They do still offer a $.10 discount when you use your own cup. But I have to agree that it should be more aggressively pushed. And not just at SBs. It infuriates me every time I eat at a fast food place the sheer mountain of recyclable material (pretty much all of it is recyclable these days) that goes in the trash can because there is no alternative save hauling it home yourself.
    And don’t even get me started on packaging! The one thing working in favor of package reduction lately is the cost of transporting it to the store!

  31. Hey! I was just thinking of this post and was going to search it out to comment on, but I couldn’t find a search function on your blog. And here it is, one of the Just Posts!

    Anyway, I don’t go to Sbucks often– you know, the economic crisis and all– but this morning I had some time to kill before the bank opened so I stopped in. Well, today they had ceramic mugs and asked me if I wanted to use one! (This Starbucks is only a year old, and we are in Spain…) Of course they gave me my Museli Break on a paper plate, but hey, I’ll take progress where I can find it.

    Though if anyone can tell me how to maneuver the mug that doesn’t fit into the cupholders of my stroller, the muesli bar, and the stroller itself all the way over to the tables in the food court, I’m all ears…