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Starbucks – Left me alone….and they say – Don’t Do it Alone!!

source: starbucks website
Should we trust corporates when they say – They are on with their Green efforts?…Maybe we should not. Starbucks claims that it allows customers to use their own reusable cups and even encourages green practices. Their punch line – Don’t do it alone, doesn’t seem to work in reality.
Their website carries very fancy content on Green issues.But how many really bother?

source: starbucks website
 I was taken by their reports to promote use of ceramic and re-usable mugs and tried to take my own to one of their outlets. As a rule,  if a customer walks in with a ceramic or re usable cup, starbucks employees are supposed to rinse the mug and pour coffee into it.

However, I was refused to be served in my mug- The lady at the counter said that the sanitation department wouldn’t allow use of any other container other than the one sold at Starbucks!…If this is true, how would their motto to go green ever become a reality. Another report claims that Starbucks intends to reintroduce ceramic mugs and increase use of reusable commuter mugs by 2010. I did not know that they offered a $.10 discount to customers who bring in reusable mugs. If all this was true, why would I be refused when I make a conscious effort to carry my mug for my drink?

I don’t know how people could ignore this garbage pile when they buy their coffee in disposable cups…Does it never occur as to what happens to all this unnecessary garbage
source: triplepundits.com
Statistics:
Starbucks stores use billions of disposable plastic and paper cups, this means an enormous usage of natural resources and energy and then cups land in the landfills and the ocean. The Company claims that their cups contain 10 percent post consumer recycled content. And that, according to the company is estimated to save tens of thousands of trees, half a million gallons of waste water, and several million pounds of garbage. And Starbucks claims to be the pioneer in promoting recycled cups in the beverage retailing industry.
Visit this link on their website to learn more about their programs – Link  
Reality:
Did you know that FDA (Food & Drug administration, USA) does not support use of recycled material in food retailing industry? Another very important aspect in terms of recycling – Paper cups lined with wax /plastic to hold liquids cannot be recycled in most recycling plants/systems. I am really not sure if Starbucks can ever achieve its target of making all of its cups recyclable by 2012. Corporate GREEN team says that the company is requesting its customers to bring in their own reusable cups or tumblers in order to meet their recycling goal set for the year 2012. Frankly, I am yet to see one single customer buying his or her coffee in their own mug! So in which part of the world are they pushing their Green ideas then?
Whatz really happening
With over 16,000 retailing locations, it is difficult to claim consistency in their efforts. It is definitely difficult for a company with so many globally disperse franchisees to efficiently and effectively implement a recycling strategy. The least they could do is to support conscious consumers like myself.
Money matter a lot to people sitting in the Shareholder boards…blind that they are to any crisis around them, it is a disgrace that the company’s shareholders voted down Starbuck’s proposal to increase recycling efforts. ( I am sure Seattle Times would be faking this news ). And why did they make this brilliant decision? Because the finance guys have to create WEALTH for their shareholders!! (really??)
Although the company seems to have started offering discounts to consumers who bring in their own cup since 1985, how come we do not see anything happening on that front? Isn’t the non green population just living to save money or just Enjoy their life?…I am sure if they were given a chance to save a few cents… at least a few of them would oblige to bring their own mugs (for the amount of coffee consumed in the world, specially in the US) It would make a significant difference in terms of number of disposable (plastic and paper) cups used. What amazes me is that the consumer who is aware that he should not buy hot drinks in a plastic cup refuses to think one step beyond and reduce use of paper cups.
Statistics…again!
Starbucks claims that in 2009, over 26 million customers brought their own tumblers for their cup of Joe…(really!!). This means a meager 1.5% shift from use of disposables and that translated to saving a whopping 1.2 million pounds of paper from being consumed. If this was true, imagine the amount which goes into the landfill due to the million of cups still being used…phew!!…Do you really think you cant make your own cup at home or at least carry your own mug to the café. The least you could do is to choose using their ceramic mugs and have your coffee in store and not bother walking around the mall with your fancy disposable cup.
Another very important aspect of this Industry has not even been discussed yet – The coffee Growing /processing industry and its impact on environment. That makes an interesting topic for a new article altogether!
Painful changes in the Indian scene…
What bothers me is India’s growing and booming Cafe culture. Cafe Coffee Day, Barista etc have become a fashion statement of sorts with the Indian Population. I do not have anything any particular brand or product, what pains is the lack of common sense and basic thought towards the impact of every cultural shift
India is going through!
Think before you THINK it is HEP to go to a Cafe and order your coffee in a disposable cup. Think of going green with your choices and let the planet remain habitable!

No Plastic? Fantastic

During a recent visit to Kroger, I found a teeny tiny sticker near the billing counter. It said “Less plastic? Fantastic!” . I decided to write about this campaign and began my research as soon as I reached home. To my surprise, I couldn’t find any material about this campaign initiated by Kroger. I had to go to their website and look for campaigns and initiatives. Here is where I found an article on their mission to save a billion bags this year –  Less plastic? Fantastic!

There was not a single copy of the above mentioned sticker in print or online..Strange!! So do we assume that the corporate policy on social responsibility is nothing more than their ploy to “meet legislative requirements for corporate environmental responsibility”? Even if the program is supposed to be genuine, we don’t see any retailer visibly encourage use of reusable bags- say by means of ads or any other promotional programs. Just hanging them at the billing counters doesn’t help…right!.

Did you know that kroger has an entire segment of their website dedicated to GREEN LIVING. I dint until I searched through their website. I was so angry about their attitude towards green projects that I researched for them online. As mentioned these programs do not get as much publicity as their “SALES and discount coupons” (nonsense)…They need to work more on these programs rather than restricting it just to their website. The least they could do is to show people using reusable bags in their TV ads, but the ads glorify the idea of plastic bags being brought home..and the focus is on Save money live better!

I am not sure what Kroger intends to achieve with this tiny sticker or the program for that matter. When a billboard sized hoarding on these topics can’t work its magic on people, what difference could an insignificant one inch square sticker make?

Retail giants don’t push a green programs fearing a dent in their customer base. Retailers and corporates are here to make money and “create wealth for their stakeholders”...sounds familiar…lol..lines from our financial management books on wealth creation….(sic!). I have nothing against Kroger, its subsidiaries or any other retailer for that matter.

None of the convenience freaks (read customers) would have “seen the sticker” or would want to even acknowledge that plastic or anything with throw away culture is bad for them. Don’t I see a suicidal tendency in them…hmm…seems like an interesting way to look at the whole issue.

Its not lack of information but lack of integration of know-what to know-how which glorifies throw away culture. A simple thing like going to a temple and asking for “prasadam” means using up two fold able styrofoam containers and of course one plastic/styrofoam glass for water. I have stopped buying anything from Hindu temples here in the USA or even carrying home food from restaurants.

It pains to see that not one person standing before me in a billing counter has ever said no to a plastic bag….And to top it all, they look at me like I belong to the jungle and not the civilized world…why you my ask?…because I take my own bag and specifically ask the billing clerk to pack things in my own bag…it is just a small effort and a major start to bigger things…

My eyes are sore looking for just one more environmentally responsible earthling around me (in person)!!! Will I ever be able to come across one ..I don’t know…when are all these convenience freaks going to realize that they are being a pest on this planet.
 
If you are among those who can think, can feel and surely make sense out of happenings around you…How about spreading some awareness…as they say knowledge is power…and we can bring in change when we are committed to it.

Share this or similar videos with family and friends. I am sure it is more a lack of awareness than lack of common sense that people don’t realize a lot of things. Here is a talk on TED by Captain Charles Moore on why we need to get more conscious…brilliant and surely is nothing short of a horror movie

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

Image source: Kroger green living website

Paper products aren’t great either – Reuse not recycle

If you thought you were doing the planet a huge favor by using paper products “instead of styrofoam and plastic”. You are in for a rude shock. The first point being that these cups are single use and are a major strain on natural resources. Don’t get fooled by these promotions by all the cafes and restaurants around the world.

Image source: citizenshift.org

They are not as green as they are made to look. Compared to washing used dishes, disposables (paper, plastic or styrofoam) are definitely major resource guzzlers. If you thought you could recycle these cups, then let me burst your bubble, the thin film of polythene used to make these paper cup hold liquids, makes it a difficult item to recycle. Few brands also sell wax coated paper cups. This however doesn’t make it any different when it comes to recycling. Commercial recycling cannot remove the glue in paper cups and plastic and wax covering on these cups only aggravates the problem.

Image source: thecupstore.com

I have nothing against coffee lovers nor do I have anything against these big brands. All I am saying is, think about all the disposable cups you could be throwing after just one round of refreshement. I am not asking you to avoid drinking your daily cuppa. All it just needs is a few minutes and a small effort to go green with your routines. There have been ads about bio-degradable paper cups by a certain brand but it is surely not great when compared to our good old metal/ceramic containers.

This is how a garbage bin outside any Starbucks looks. It was shocking to see the number of cups being wasted to measure and pour portions to another (disposable) cup for the customer. Not to mention the stirrers, plastic lids and cardboard flaps (to protect you from hot liquids). It is surely painful to see dumps like these and not think about it….

imagesource: sustainabilityfrinq.wordpress

We can avoid this, it is cool to use your own coffee cup. I do (tea in my case) and get compliments for being responsible. Ceramic mugs are a great way to eliminate coffee cups (plastic or otherwise) while at work. When you are on the go, choose travel mugs (steel all over or with earth friendly silicone parts).

Imagesource:sz-wholesale.com

Don’t you think it is more classy to carry your own travel mug to a cafe rather than beg them to give their stinky disposable ones? You too can save loads of paper/plastic/styrofoam cups from being manufactured, shipped, bought, stocked and then going to the landfill. Lesser garbage means lesser trips by the garbage truck and one less “garbage bag” for the dump. A little thought and a little effort go a long way. I found these cool ceramic travel mugs with silicone lids

image source: blog.jempp.com.au

 Another funky one for you to choose from

Image source: savethefrogs.com

You could buy a steel thermos flask to hold an extra cup for your partner too! 

Image source: common4.csnimages.com

Go greener, and let the planet survive a few more years. Come to think of it, we are not saving the planet, we are saving ourselves and million other earthlings in the process. I don’t drink coffee, so Chai anyone 🙂

Green issues with Grocery Packaging

Monthly trip to the grocery store has become a huge guilt trip for me. All the plastic packets and sachets used for packing dal, rice, spices etc, have had me thinking and am desperately looking for solutions. I had worked a way out when I used to shop in India. I shopped whole sale, which meant that anything for my kitchen would come in jute bags or a bag i carried from home. If I bought it from a local General store, I used home made Newspaper bags.

I never buy ready to eat food and all my meals are made from scratch. This means less plastic/other packaging material to throw away, lesser waste and a guilt free shopping trip. Living in a Super Market driven environment is making green living more and more difficult. Customer centric grocery chains have increased general use of in-ending reams of plastic sheets.

I am still staunch about not buying bread, processed food in any form (raw or other wise). I bake my bread at home. However, shopping for other kitchen necessities is driving me to the wall. Less said about the milk cans, the better. I dont eat out much so I consciously avoid Styrofoam or even paper products. I buy fresh juice t an outlet once in a while and use my 24 oz water bottle instead of their Styrofoam cups/tumblers. My husband buys his occasional coffee in a steel coffee mug (thermos cup). I would love to leave as little carbon footprint as possible. My efforts are very conscious and the need to make green choices are next only to breathing for me. My self critical efforts continue and I am driven to find solutions to most of the day to day non-green choices I am forced to make.I am not here to whine or complain but I am looking at feasible solutions to reduce the non-biodegradable waste being thrown out by a typical family anywhere in the world.

The last few years have seen an increase in “super market” syndrome in India. Though I have nothing against the so called urbanization, I would definitely want people to look into associated “increased” waste generation. The tons and tons of plastic bags and even unneccesary bio-degradable garbage generated has taken over every nation in the last decade. What depresses me is that the amount of penetration such things have in our lives. It is going to take ages to wane out this trend. In the meanwhile, all the damage such choices cause is already at an unimaginable proportion and the impact is alarming. No offense meant but I still see 98% of the world population turning their backs against these on-the-face issues. My puny voice goes unheard even with my siblings. I don’t see this as a battle I want to WIN or LOOSE, but would want more number of people to believe in making green choices.

I wanted to put in a picture of my own for this post. In the mean while, I would love to share this wonderful cartoon I found online.

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