Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A letter to Starbucks

I read this concise and useful post by Sarah Wilson about ways to reduce plastic, and it led me back to a refrain that repeats often in my head:

Why does Starbucks continue to produce so much garbage?

Starbucks is an excellent corporate citizen, treating its staff and suppliers as humans who have aspirations and needs and are deserving of respect. They are big-picture and root-cause-based about it. Why don't they apply this thinking to their use of packaging?

They do have an environmental and climate-change policy, including a page addressing container waste, but it doesn't seem to add up to enough.

So I wrote them a letter. Here it is:


I really appreciate that you are an excellent corporate citizen when it comes to your staff and suppliers. It makes a difference and provides a model for other companies. I also read on your website about your environment-related efforts, and appreciate those...but I still hate that when I walk in to a Starbucks all I see are throwaway items. *Sometimes* the Starbucks has a recycling area for *some* of the elements, but it is absolutely not enough. Recycling shouldn't be our go-to, anyway: reduce, reuse, THEN recycle. I feel that there are so many ways you can do better, especially given the innovative and thoughtful ways you address other social issues.

--Can you have washable plates, cutlery, and mugs for people who stay? I understand this will up your energy because of washing needs. So, if not...

--There are SO many compostable options now. There are compostable-plastic cups, food containers, cutlery, and more. Certainly for customers that are staying with you, you could give them their stuff using compostable packaging and add a composting service to your garbage pick-up. People could throw out almost all of their packaging and their food leftovers into the compost; it would reduce your garbage immensely.

--Unless you live in a city that has composting, the compostable stuff won't help to-go customers as much. But there have GOT to be better recycling options for your lids, cups, food packages, cutlery, napkins...Your efforts in this area just do not appear to be very sincere. This effort could be combined with a lot of very clear reminders to customers about recycling, and maybe even marketing-type accountability incentives such as pledges to sign or photo contests or something, since most of your customers are to-go and won't be tossing their empty containers on site.

--You could offer a pretty steep incentive for people to bring their own (Starbucks-branded if you like) reusable packaging. You website says you encourage this but I definitely have not seen that. Some serious public education needs to happen with your customers.

--I'm going to suggest, too, given your influence as a popular and ubiquitous business in most places, you might be able to leverage your opinion and suggest to many of the cities and towns where you are located that they start regular composting. It is part of the cycle of life -- this notion that we use a thing once and its waste is garbage is insane -- and we must must MUST get ourselves out from under the mountain of garbage we are burying ourselves in along with the rest of the world.

Those are all the ideas I've got at the moment, but I'm sure you and your team could generate a ton more, and from those develop an innovative and smart suite of changes that not only reduces the garbage Starbucks produces but actually helps launch the groundwork for a healthier environment for all.

Thank you.

I'll report back if they respond. Meanwhile, I'm going to finish my cup of coffee.

Er, home brewed. I don't really like Starbucks coffee. But I do appreciate their business practices!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Back at it with the loppers

Saturday I finally got back outside to do some restoration/stewardship work with North Branch Restoration Project and Forest Preserve District of Cook County. It felt SO good to be outside, and to be helping a hawthorne grove near Linne Prairie grow stronger. I wish we'd taken before-and-after photos — we cleared a ton of buckthorn! But I only took photos on the walk there through Linne Woods.


It was a beautiful, muddy morning—very springlike, wholly unFebruary-like. I don't think we've had snow since December.

Once on the prairie, I recognized a few plants in their winter guise, but only the most obvious, such as this compass plant and prairie dropseed. 

Linne Prairie is interesting because, while it's come a long way, according to the site stewards Marian and John, it is still recovering from its degraded state as former farmland and fill pit. I look forward to walking here, and working here, in the spring and summer.