Sunday, May 15, 2011

Shame on Starbucks

The other day, I decided to walk across the river to the nearest Starbucks and treat myself to a Frappucino, simply in honor of its being such a beautiful May day.  Now, every other time I've gone for a Starbucks run in recent years, I've remembered only just as I was walking in the door that I should have brought bring a reusable cup with me, on the general ecofrugal principle that it's always better to reuse anything (a cup, a grocery bag, a handkerchief) than to use a disposable equivalent and throw it away.  But this time, for a change, I actually remembered it before I left the house.  So I tucked my cup in my big handbag and set out, curious to see how the baristas would react to it.

Well, the result was a big disappointment.  The cashier wasn't too fazed at being presented with a reusable cup; I got the impression that my request was a bit unusual, but she did know how to deal with it.  She stuck a little sticky note on my cup, wrote my drink order on it, and queued it up behind all the other marked-up plastic cups.  From where I stood, I could watch its progress through the line, and I watched as the barista started mixing up my drink.  Rather than putting it directly into my cup, he measured out the mix in a disposable Starbucks cup, dumped it in the blender, whipped it up, and poured it from there into my cup—tossing the one he'd used to do the measuring into the trash.  So it turns out that bringing my own cup was not only a waste of effort; it was actually counterproductive from an environmental standpoint.  It resulted in exactly the same amount of waste, plus the water required to wash my reusable cup—and the plastic cup the barista used ended up in the trash, rather than coming home with me and going into the recycling bin.

So, two lessons learned: 1) I shouldn't bother bringing a reusable cup to Starbucks, and 2) if I really want to reduce waste, I should get my coffee fix at Dunkin' Donuts instead, where they not only know how to reuse cups but also use Fair Trade certified beans in all their espresso drinks.
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