Straw-Free Is Not Enough: An Open Letter To Starbucks

It's time to change the game for in-store drinkers
Why are consumers using single-use cups, despite consuming their beverage in store?

As the world's highest grossing coffee company, Starbucks has significant potential to impact not only the creation of waste - but how consumers think about environmental responsibility.

While the company has taken steps in the right direction - with its recent straw ban, for example - I aim to make the case that that simply isn't enough, and that a few simple changes could have a tremendous impact on consumers' habits.

Steps taken

The coffee giant has launched a number of small initiatives aimed at reducing environmental impact - or staying relevant. Frankly, I don't care what the motive is as long as there's forward momentum.

Starbucks' efforts apparently go beyond the recently introduced straw-free policy. According to an employee I recently spoke with in my hometown, the company makes an effort to avoid the use of sleeves and, thankfully, those abysmal green plastic hole-plugging sticks where possible.

But what about when the company has the opportunity to avoid the use of single-use products all together?

Starbucks' ceramic mugs are in plain view at locations from Korea to Canada (Photo: Emily Court)

Pushing ceramics

Despite being someone who likes to support local businesses, I do spend a lot of time working at various Starbucks locations - all around the world. The chain can be trusted for dairy-free options, good workspace, fast internet, and a consistent product.

Starbucks became more appealing to me when I realised they offer mugs, dishes, and cutlery for in-store drinking and dining. The only issue with this is that most consumers seem to be totally oblivious to these options - which, unfortunately, doesn't surprise me.

You see - I was never offered these things, I only know they exist because I looked and asked for them.

Without fail, every time I'm in a Starbucks, I watch anywhere between three and 20 people drink out of disposable cups, throw them in the garbage (because who recycles?) and leave without a second thought - all while the ceramic mugs sit in plain view.

Should individuals take more responsibility for their own waste creation and request reusable mugs and dishes? Absolutely.

But, with respect to Starbucks, great power brings great responsibility. Reusable dishes should be pushed at every location. There should be clear advertisement for them at every register, every employee should be trained to ask every time, and the chain should take it upon itself to ensure that its costumers have the opportunity to make the responsible choice.

A little can go a long way with the kind of influence Starbucks has. A little more can go even further.

Those who have the power to offset needless waste should go the extra mile to exercise it - Starbucks inclusive.

Disclaimer: Plant Based News acknowledges that there are situations in which certain consumers require a straw due to physical limitations, and does not oppose the use of straws in these special circumstances.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself. 

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PBN Contributor:

Emily Court is a passionate ethical vegan from Eastern Canada. She is a Challenge 22 Mentor, Digital Writer, and experienced animal advocate driven by issues of animal liberation and social justice. She studied at Dalhousie University, where her thesis highlighted intercultural and gender relations. She is an established public speaker, writer, and world traveller with a drive to provide a voice to those who might not otherwise have one. You can follow her on Instagram @emily.j.court or on Twitter @_EmilyJCourt_.

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