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September 08, 2010

Natalie's Starbucks Survival Kit

20061101_starbucks_900x600 Don't get me wrong, I love the Fair Trade organic coffee we buy in bulk and grind fresh daily in the office kitchen. In fact, I am not ready to start my day at Reuseit without it. But once a week - usually Wednesday or Thursday when I start to run out of steam - I head to Starbucks for a pick-me-up.

Working at Reuseit I've learned a few easy ways to make my weekly treat more environmentally-responsible and today being a chilly morning in Chicago, I thought I'd share them.

First (and most obviously) bring your own mug! I like stainless steel because it keeps my coffee hot, but I see lots of people using the I Am Not A Paper Cup because it looks so much like a Starbucks cup. You can use the same mugs for iced drinks. The barista should knock a few cents off your drink every time you bring a mug, too.

Speaking of iced drinks - I have two tips for you. One: bring your own straw. It might not seem like a big waste when you look at the unassuming little straw in your cup, but if I'm going to Starbucks once a week, every week all year long that's at least 52 plastic straws a year I'm throwing away. (Not to mention all the paper they come wrapped in.) Again, I like stainless steel but glass is a fancy alternative. 

My second piece of advice for cold drinks is: if you have to take a disposable cup, reuse it. Not to drink from again, necessarily, but upcycle those plastic cups into something new. In fact, there is an entire website called Starbucks Garden 100% dedicated to ways you can reuse your coffee cups to grow your own food. 

I love sweets - and there are lots of them in the pastry case at Starbucks. I easily avoid taking a paper bag I don't really need by asking my barista to place my danish in a reusable sandwich bag. They do kind of think you're nuts at first, but it's a good way to get other people in line thinking about whether or not they really need to throw away so many paper bags every week as well. With my reusable napkin (that really doesn't get very dirty so I take it home once a week to wash with my other laundry), my mug, straw and sandwich bag I'm enjoying waste-free visits to Starbucks every week. 

At the cream and sugar counter I opt for sweeteners I can shake out of a larger container as opposed to one that comes in a disposable package, and I walk out full of caffeine and feeling pretty smart.

I'll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite blogs, Green Starbucks:

"'If only 50 customers a day in every store were to use reusable mugs, Starbucks would save 150,000 disposable paper cups daily. This equals 1.7 million pounds of paper, 3.7 million pounds of solid waste, and 150,000 trees a year.' In 2000 when this report was generated there were only 6500 stores worldwide. In 2007 there are 13,168 stores which means over 300,000 trees could be saved from landfills by BRINGING YOUR OWN CUP."


Can I ask where you get your bulk office coffee? I'm hoping to get my office to switch to a local and/or more sustainable delivery service.

I so agree with every aspect of this story. Just makes me sick to think of how many tree's are cut down to fix our coffee habit. I too was a victim of this epidemic. Then I woke up and realized not only was I wasting my money but I was literally wasting tree's. All in the name of a good coffee. I now make my own coffee from home in my espresso machine. My machine does not need any paper filters to make espresso, I buy my natural sugar in bulk, and I use my fabric napkin to clean up any mess. Then I put my yummy coffee in my reusable mug and go on my way. I did not think of this as a annoyance like some people do. I think of this as my little way to help the earth.
I wish Starbucks would start expressing the importance in recycling their cups, bringing reusable mugs, and start being a greener company. Not only will this get them more fans but it will also save them some green themselves.

While the 300k trees number is impressive, we've no context in which to understand it. How many trees per year are cut down to make paper products? How many trees per year are replanted by logging companies? Are 300k trees really significant, or should we be focusing our efforts elsewhere? I'm not trying to downplay the importance of your post, I just want to make sure we're not being mislead by the data you've presented.

Thanks for your comments, everyone! Sarah- I'll email you about the coffee!

Here you have explained very nicely. I am proud of you because calling attention to a very important issue. It is very informative. You did a nice job. Thank you very much for giving a nice article to us.

"If only 50 customers a day in every store were to use reusable mugs, Starbucks would save 150,000 disposable paper cups daily."

IF ONLY!!! They're using a paper cup to make your drink, pouring it into your reusable cup, and the tossing the paper cup. Can you believe this? (Starbucks in Fort Lee NJ, Feb 2010; saw it with my own eyes.)

I can't believe how many people still don't bring their own mug (even in Seattle!) And the #1 thing I hate is the cardboard sleeves that everyone gets for their hot drinks...Better than double cups like they used to do, but still! Many people sell reusable sleeves which is a good start, but bring an insulated mug and you won't need either!
And YES Marge - I've seen this too...they use the paper cup to write your drink order on, and pass it to the barista..there's gotta be a better way! Missing the whole point on bringing your own cup!!!!


A friend of mine who works for Starbucks in Portland, OR said they have removable stickers at his store so they can write your drink on your reusable mug and you can remove it without any residue.

There's a financial incentive for bringing your own reusable mug to the coffee shop. Some shops will give you a discount or an extra punch in their coffee club card if you bring your own mug! A win/win!

I read somewhere that a company now makes a reusable cup, lid, and straw that people can buy to get around the disposable ones used for iced drinks at coffee shops. I'm sorry I can't remember the name.

I've seen where Starbucks offers a gift pack that includes a reusable cup and reusable stirs but I can't seem to find where to buy them. Anyone have any ideas?

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