7 Reasons that it’s getting harder to hate Starbucks.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jul 3, 2009
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starbucks green

This article is continually updated.


Disclaimer to all ye Starbucks haters: 

Look, I never shop at Starbucks. Ever. I’m in a local cafe typing these words. But I believe in credit where due, and hopefully being fair minded will encourage Starbucks, with all its power, to continue improving and being a positive force in our world.


Update: 7) Starbucks pays more for employee health insurance than it pays for coffee (money.cnn.com)

Starbucks is already Fair-Trade. Now, they say they’re going green—and supporting local.

If they actually do it, I might have to give up my 20-year buycott of Starbucks. I used to dislike ’em ’cause they put my favorite local cafes outta business in Boston, Cambridge etc.

Then I moved back to my hometown of Boulder, and looked with shriveled eyes at idiot college kids and yuppies who hung about their non-local Starbucks, spending money on The Man.

Then, 1) Starbucks got on the Fair-trade wagon. Hmmm, I said, and turned my Conscious Consumer Alarm off the Starbucks channel.

Then, 2) Starbucks pioneered the 10% recycled content to-go cup (something my favorite-ever local cafe, from which I’m writing this piece, still doesn’t do). May not sound like a big deal, but no one else was doing it, and Starbucks’ very size—the cause of We the People’s resentment for years—suddenly becomes a very (very) good thing when they start using that power eco-responsibly.

3) They also offer a discount (a paltry, but still didn’t-have-to-do-it 10 cents) to anyone who uses a reusable cup.

Then, I read that Starbucks 4) not only didn’t put local cafes out of business, but that locally-owned cafes actually thrived in towns where Starbucks moved in. Apparently, Starbucks served as a gateway drug (or ambassador) to the masses…they went to Starbucks, developed a fancy for overpriced fancy coffee, then took that fancy next door to their local cafe. Humph, I said, and grudgingly stopped hating Starbucks at all. This was a year or so ago.

starbucks compost

Then, I read this, via Brandweek. Excerpt:

5) …On Thursday, Starbucks announced that the company aims to earn LEED certification on all new company-owned stores…

Cool, I said to myself. If it actually happens, that is. Every big company’s always making big pronouncements about what they’ll do in the future. If they said they’d start right away, I’d be sold. The article continued…

Among the company’s eco-friendly goals for all new company-owned stores are that 50 percent of each store’s energy be derived from renewable sources, and that they will be 25 percent more energy efficient. The company has set long-term goals

whatever that means

including replacing all stores’ incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs and ensuring 100 percents of its cup supply is reusable or recyclable by 2015.

Nice! Why not do it now: ecoproducts.com. Bonnaroo, the Suns, my local football stadium and many local cafes are already doing it.

Beyond the energy-saving measures, the company aims to give its stores a more local feel. All new and renovated stores…will tap the skills of local craftsmen and use materials associated with the store’s neighborhood.

Okay…if this happens…you got me. This is thinking that reflects real inspiration, not just greenwashing or aping local cafes that’ve been doing such for years without needing to get all Press Release about it.

One recently built store that reflects this new strategy is the company’s 1st Avenue and Pike Street store in Seattle, opened in March of 2009. The bar’s leather façade is made of scrap leather from local shoe and automobile factories, the cabinets from fallen trees in the Seattle area, and the community table from a nearby restaurant.

So cool. So cool. So cool. Do this everywhere and I’ll become a patron. And I drink a lot of coffee, as my ever-shaking hands attest.

“We recognize the importance of continuously evolving with our customers’ interests, lifestyles and values in order to stay relevant over the long term,” said Arthur Rubinfeld…

And remember, 6) Starbucks always does well in Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For” rankings, along with Whole Foods and other such. And whatever their faults, let’s be grateful they don’t use styrofoam, like Dunkin’ Donuts, or genetically engineered coffee beans, like Nestle.

starbucks compost

With thanks for the tip to:

love tomorrow today

Via my first eco idol, Umbra, a great writer over at Grist.org:

From two years ago:

More recent, via Oxfam:

What would Jesus buy? Also two years old:

My idol, Larry David:


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


20 Responses to “7 Reasons that it’s getting harder to hate Starbucks.”

  1. Funny, sweet Sara, that you reserve the right to detest Starbucks…and yet I'm the one who hasn't purchased anything from them in 15 years..!

  2. sj* says:

    LOL. hey, it's rough out here. 😉 i can't believe i just incriminated myself. whoops!!

  3. […] in Waylon Lewis’ opening on this one. It echoes my own. Starbucks is already Fair-Trade. Now, they say they’re going green—and […]

  4. Brenna says:

    Great post! I too have had a long hatred of Starbucks and try to avoid it as much as possible. Many of my local Starbucks have really been trying to make positive green, and not just greenwashing, changes. They have never refused my reusable cup and generally try to make me not hate them! 😀 All in all, I will always choose local when given the chance, though it's nice that the other choice is not so bad anymore.

  5. This is such a positive response to declining sales in the present global economy. Going 'green' is thinking long term.

  6. […] The author of this article says it’s getting harder for them to keep hating Starbucks […]

  7. Brian says:

    I applaud you for re-evaluating your perspective on Starbucks. I understand you sticking to your values and rewarding those companies that match up with your value system, but as someone who works for Starbucks we often catch a bad rap just because we are a big corp. One of the things we have been doing for a long time with our coffee is CAFE practices (http://www.scscertified.com/retail/rss_starbucks…. It is a commitment we have made to our coffee farmers and all involved to make sure we are being responsible, Fair Trade is a great certification but can be quite costly to family owned coffee farmers. CAFE practices have been our early response to help farmers and the industry move in the right direction. We are not perfect, but we do understand that with success comes responsibility, check out our new mission statement http://www.starbucks.com/mission/default.asp to see where we are going.

  8. […] those topics do have a tendency to make the average person’s eyes glaze over and hanker for an Orange Mocha Frappucino; either that or a gasoline […]

  9. […] here at elephant prefer cafes that are independently owned, and not chains. That said, we’ve warmed to Starbucks over the years (though I still never patronize it, ever, even in […]

  10. Carmenza says:

    It doesn’t say organic or bird friendly, though. Hopefully that will happen as well. No Starbucks for me until then.

  11. Rick Gilbert says:

    I walked by their store at First and Pike in Seattle about a week ago (it's about one block from the first Starbucks in Pike Place Market). I remember being surprised to see it at First and Pike–that corner for a long time had a sex emporium, with some strip club next door. the blocks on Pike between First and Third Avenues have always been pretty sketchy–so kudos to them for taking a chance on that area. It's close enough to the Market to draw the tourists, for sure–the one in the Market can be easy to miss.

  12. Mar says:

    I would love to see Starbucks start recycling. Starbucks in Phoenix and Scottsdale won’t even use the same cup for coffee and iced tea re-fills due to new health department requirements. Your old cup just gets tossed. Like most restaurants and coffee shops, they are soooo wasteful. It would be tough, but if the Bucks kicked things off and started recycling, others might follow and people would love them even more. (And I know how much they love to be loved.)

  13. viahttp://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

    Manzanita Littleapple
    I hate to say it, but I was in Starbucks today at Park Meadows… They do have local… art supplies from Clementine Art and snacks from Two Moms in the Raw.

    Jessica Parrell
    I still save so much $$, paper and calories by making it at home, we have a great fair-trade store nearby too, but it's great to see some initiative in a big company, nice article!

    Frank Owen
    I will always funnel my consumer dollar toward the local coffee/tea shoppe, but I also think–at some point–there may be merit to rewarding companies that attempt to make strides. I'm not one to say whether Starbucks has done that but if they start to amass larger dots in the positives column as opposed to the negatives that's worthy of discussion… See More. I certainly know Chevron will never be up for such discussions, nor Dow, nor Monsanto. At the end of the day, I agree with Jessica; I'd rather buy a bag o' beans and French press at home.

    Judy Worth Friedsam
    Starbuck's will always be alright in my book 😉

    Elaine Replogle
    Starbucks has had pretty good relationships with local communities since its inception and it CLEARLY knows the importance of staying ahead/with trends. Being "green" is as much about responsibility as it is about retaining a certain high-end, relatively elite, NYT-reading, laptop-toting, book-reading clientele. I rarely go (only b/c I'm cheap and make my own coffee at home), but when I do, I *love* Starbucks.

    Heather Wakefield
    All this is why its good to target starbucks- because they are an industry leader. They have influence, and listen so the campaign becomes essentially a grass rood educational one to enlighten the public as well as set a standard.

    Berenice Weber
    i usually make my coffee daily at home (freshly ground too) but must confess now & then i do buy a regular coffee at Starbucks, also when their beans are on sale at the supermarket i do buy them…

    Laura Saffioti
    Look, I like Starbucks. They give their employees health insurance at 20 hours a week. That's nothing to cough at. It's progressive.

    Did you read the post, Laura? I'm being purty positive…

  14. Adam says:

    The reason Starbucks isn't 100% Fair Trade is complex. First, there isn't enough quality Fair Trade coffee on the market for Starbucks to deliver a consistant product. Smaller companies can do this because they are purchasing in smaller quantities. Starbucks wants to deliver a very consistant product, and that becomes difficult to do on their scale. If you read their Corporate Social Responsibility Report (it's fact-checked by an independant organization) you'll see that on average, they pay more than the going Fair Trade rate. Sometimes they pay much, much more to grab some of the world's best coffee. Sometimes, they pay less, and at times it is warranted. They shouldn't have to pay the same amount of $$ for a bean of low quality that they are going to put into their French Roast blend, as one that is a single-origin and of higher quality. That just doesn't make any sense. They are consistantly increasing their supply of Fair Trade coffee year after year. And they do this by sending people out into the fields to work with the farmers to grow higher quality coffee.

  15. Adam says:

    You should also look into their Ethos water brand. While I think bottled water is inherently evil, this is a new, compassionate twist on the industry.http://www.ethoswater.com/ . Kind of a double edged-sword.

    Waylon, if you can get ahold of their CSR report for the next few years, you'll see what their progress is toward their goal. They are upfront and honest about their success' and their failures.

    After working there for 5 years, I have to say the company gets a bad rap for the wrong reasons, and the good that they do largely goes unnoticed to all but their most loyal fans. More focus should be spent on the amount of waste they produce. It is absolutely disgusting how much stuff we had to just throw away.

  16. […] My slow conversion to Starbucks’ ever-improving ways is summed up here: It’s Getting Harder to Hate Starbucks. […]

  17. […] those topics do have a tendency to make the average person’s eyes glaze over and hanker for an Orange Mocha Frappucino; either that or a gasoline […]

  18. […] Starbucks responds to concern about its “Controversial” Same-Sex Marriage Stance. […]

  19. […] those topics do have a tendency to make the average person’s eyes glaze over and hanker for an Orange Mocha Frappucino; either that or a gasoline […]

  20. Neil says:

    South Park did a great episode on the fallacy that "bigger is worse". Starbucks has ALWAYS been socially conscious and has heavily invested in its partners, its suppliers (BETTER than Fair Trade requires, BTW) and the communities in which it exists. FWIW, I have had the good fortune to meet Howard and looked him in the eye and have no doubt as to his sincerity. I will continue to support them wherever I go.