But first! A mindful morning bonus:
Starbucks began offering their own line of single origin coconut milk across the U.S. on February 17th.
Since coconut milk is trendy, tasty and a purportedly good alternative to soy and dairy, why shouldn’t they?
First, we commend Starbucks for catering to our vegan friends, and we’re grateful for their popularization of fair trade coffee. We like coffee, and we love coffee we feel good about drinking.
But we can’t feel good about drinking Starbucks’ new coconut milk, sadly. Here’s why:
1) It’s hardly coconut milk.
Here are the ingredients: Water, coconut cream, cane sugar, tricalcium phosphate, coconut water concentrate, natural flavors, sea salt, carrageenan, gellan gum, corn dextrin, xanthan gum, guar gum, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D2.
2) It’s bad for the environment.
Starbucks’ coconut milk is sourced exclusively from the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. This means that for Starbucks’ coconut milk to get from there to, say, Colorado, it must travel 8,796 miles. We don’t know how they’re transporting it, but given that a Boeing 747 burns roughly 36,000 gallons of gas over the course of a ten hour flight, the gas alone used to transport Starbucks’ millions of gallons of coconut milk is nothing short of obscene.
Of course, most coconuts come from Southeast Asia, so we may need reconsider our consumption of coconuts in the U.S. more broadly.
3) It’s not sustainably harvested.
Due to increasing demand for coconut products, coconut trees are now planted abundantly in unsuitable, non-native climates. Stanford warns that foreign coconut trees lower existing soil nutrients and drive away local wildlife. Native coconut tree populations are simultaneously being destroyed due to over-harvesting, as we’ve seen with the Petenes mangroves in the Yucatan.
While nearly all coconuts are now unsustainably harvested, Starbucks’ vast production demand will tangibly and single-handedly increase deforestation and environmental footprint across Southeast Asia.
4) It’s not organic.
Though some studies have admittedly suggested coconuts don’t need to be organic, coconut trees are susceptible to diseases and numerous bugs—which means that Starbucks uses pesticides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers in its growing process. Whether these end up in the coconut milk is debatable but, regardless, they can leak into surrounding soils and water sources.
Thus Starbucks’ choice to forego organic does impact our health and environment, albeit perhaps indirectly.
5) It’s not fair trade.
Starbucks coconut milk’s labor standards have yet to be seen, but given that cheap labor is rampant in large-scale farming, we’re dubious that Starbucks treats its far-away foreign workers fairly—especially because the new milk notably lacks a Fair Trade Certified label. “Single origin” means it comes from one massive factory in Sumatra with thousands of workers, who we’ve not yet heard a word about from Starbucks.
Starbucks is wisely capitalizing on the latest food and fitness trend. But before we pick up a Grande-Coconut Milk-Green Tea-Latte-hold-the-whip-cream, we need to consider how or if their new business strategy synchs with our values of fair labor, whole, local foods and organic, sustainable farming methods.
What do you think?
Authors: Melissa Scavetta and Caroline Beaton
Editor: Caroline Beaton
Photo: Urban Taste Buds