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Going "green" or being sneaky cheap?

I just picked up a Starbuck's coffee and received my cup without the customary cardboard "sleeve". When I reminded the barista, I was informed that SB is going green so the customer now needs to request the sleeve.

As I drove away, I wondered if they are truly being ecologically friendly, which is plausible, or is it merely greed? Overall, it will no doubt save them big $$$, but are those savings being passed along to the customer by keeping the cost down (somehow I doubt it) or will the savings further line their own pockets?

Along this line, accolades to Market Street (DFW grocery owned/managed by United Supermarkets of Lubbock, TX) for truly being “green” and thanking their customers by crediting .05 for each reusable “green bag” that the customer supplies – thereby eliminating the use of store supplied plastic/paper sacks.

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  1. I get the same credit when I bring my own bags to Marsh, an Indiana supermarket chain. Honestly, I think that cutting costs are probably the prime motivator by Starbucks and the supermarkets. They get to lower their costs and customers get to feel good about reducing the amount of stuff they use. Plus, it's voluntary (SBUX isn't forcing one to go without the sleeve, after all). Sure, the companies are eyeing their own bottom line. But if it means being a bit more environmentally conscious/friendly, I can agree with this. Perhaps we as customers have been too conditioned to expect everything. Nothing wrong with carrying a few cloth bags!

    1. What surprises me is that she felt the need to explain herself. She might simply have just handed you the sleeve with a polite "Have a nice day."

      As for their motives, it is probably a bit of both. They've shut down stores, so obviously are interested in ways to improve their bottom line. But I imagine they've examined a number of proposals for ways to do this, and when someone suggested this one, they perhaps had a lightbulb moment and said "Aha! And it's also green!" If anything, the savings will probably prevent them from having to increase prices or close more stores.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Cachetes

        they probably made her tell the customer.

      2. I don't think too much thought needs to be devoted to their motives. I think it is for the company one of those win-win situations. Yes they can save money by not automatically distributing the sleeve but in doing so they can make a claim toward environmental friendliness thereby giving them kudos for caring about trees and the like and assuaging any guilt the patrons might feel at purchasing coffee from starbucks which as far as I know (its been a looong time since I went to one) doesn't source eco or fairtrade coffee.

        Its what is described as picking the 'low hanging fruit' of environmental action. That is the change is easy, painless and cheap - far cheaper than source renewable energy for their store or harvesting their own rainwater etc - but it still has a positive environmental effect.

        1 Reply
        1. re: irisav

          You are incorrect regarding how they source their coffee. Go to their website to learn all about it.

        2. The subject title was very generic. In the subject body, I cited 2 companies. Interestingly, all but one person has focused only on Starbucks – which frankly I could care less about, one way or the other - Starbucks, that is.

          That being said, I believe the point of the topic question has been rationalized with respect to Starbucks.........

          1. For either business or similar businesses, I don't personally care about their motives: the end result is clear in both cases - the environment is helped as resources are not used (cup sleeves and paper or plastic bags), the stores all do better in terms of their bottom lines (the grocery store isn't going to give out the nickle per bag unless it still made financial sense for them to do so) and I have less stuff to throw out/recycle.

            Most of the coffee shops I go to (including local Starbucks) give a discount for bringing my own cup (my cup is about a Starbucks "grande" size but they charge me for a "tall") and the grocery stores (some chain and some local) all give the nickle per bag.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ccbweb

              Geez, not here in Toronto. The "cheap" grocery stores, like No Frills and Price Chopper, charge you a nickel for bags. Other, more expensive chains, like Loblaws and Dominion, give you free bags, and bag for you, but you pay for it in the price of goods. For example, Loblaws and No Frills both have the same parent. The exact same carton of coleslaw was $1.29 at No Frills, and $1.99 at Loblaws. Nowadays, I bring my backpack, although that kind of limits what you can buy.

              1. re: KevinB

                At Loblaws if you bring in a reusable Loblaws bag they give you points on your card. Same deal with No Frills.


            2. The Starbucks I go to have the "sleeves" stacked next to the sugar, milk, napkin, etc. table. You just pick it up after you've "fixed" your drink. No longer something the barrista provides.

              1. I have to say that a calling a company cheap for making efforts to help the environment is somewhat inappropriate. Who cares what their motives are? They are saving raw resources and energy!

                My work just changed our napkins from bleached, white things to unbleached, recycled-material napkins. We had to invest in new dispensers, which dispense only one napkin at a time. The only reason we changed was so that we could use less of a better product and reduce waste. For the environment. The side effects, such as lower cost, less to clean up, less usage, are fringe benefits to helping the environment. That is the bottom line.

                Basically, what I'm understanding here is that it's only ok to help the environment if people get some kind of financial reimbursment. I can't even think of words to describe how wrong I think that is.

                1 Reply
                1. I'd be happy to see more places stop giving out cardboard sleeves automatically on drinks. I think they are unnecessary and wasteful.

                  I don't see any business' efforts at being more green as "greedy." Eliminating waste isn't greedy. If you've ever watched someone grab a huge handful of paper napkins to go with their coffee, then dispenser that issue one napkin at a time make sense.

                  1. I'm fine with places being sneaky cheap if the side effect is that the business is greener (more green?). In NYC, a lot of restaurants that deliver have stopped sending plastic utensils with your food automatically. Some places on Seamlessweb have you check a box if you want them. I'm a huge fan of this since I have utensils at home and at work, and most of the time, my notes and calls begging the restaurant to NOT send plastic utensils were in vain. [The places that really drive me batty are the ones that send styrofoam plates in addition to using those non-recycleable (in NYC, at least) #5 plastic containers AND a full set of plastic silverware. Nice thought, but cripes, I never use that stuff, so it's pure waste.]

                    1. corporate greed & penny pinching being passed off as being environmentally friendly.. All Starbucks cares about is their bottom line, in my humble opinion.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: swsidejim

                        So long as the end result is the same (environmentally friendly action, that is), does it matter?

                        1. re: ccbweb

                          It does not matter either way to me, I just wouldnt be rushing to be handing out any GreenPeace medals to Starbuck's thinking they are doing anyone a favor but their stockholders.

                        2. re: swsidejim

                          I think you would too, if in that position--as would most of us......

                          1. re: Rob83

                            swsidejim didn't suggest that he/she or any of us wouldn't.

                        3. I'm not a big Starbucks fan (nor detractor) but sometimes a paper cup of coffee is so hot I cannot handle it. The "old" solution was "double-cupping". A sleeve is surely cheaper and more landfill-friendly.

                          1. Recycle, re-use, waste less. Nothing sneaky about it, it's definitely cheaper.

                            Bring your own cup, you not only don't use the sleeve, you don't use the cup either. Some grocery stores here charge for plastic bags, if you bring your own you don't pay the charge, Market Street could do that too, there's no difference between a discount and charging other than in the mind of the customer.

                            1. That's funny, they used to brag on their sleeve as being so much greener than using two cups, which other to go coffee places do to insulate.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Reefmonkey

                                Isn't that also true? The sleeve is a much better option than a second cup. No sleeve is better than a sleeve. Re-usable cup is better than a disposable cup. (I think it still notes on the sleeve that it uses some significant percentage less material than a second cup.)

                                On another note: I got this for my wife and she loves it: http://www.contexture.ca/bentwood/cuf...

                                1. re: ccbweb

                                  Yikes!!! Nice idea but a little too rich for my blood.


                                  1. re: Davwud

                                    It was a much better buy before the US dollar fell apart. Also, importantly, she likes it as much as a piece of jewelry as for the coffee cup holding capability.

                                    It is rather expensive as a coffee option (given that a good travel mug is a third of that) but I suppose for a slightly environmentally conscious sort with a daily take-out coffee habit, it might be worth it for guilt soothing.

                                    1. re: ccbweb

                                      The dollar is pretty good these days, or am I missing something? The CAD and USD are no longer almost equal, the pound isn't worth over $2, and the Euro is back to around $1.25.

                                      1. re: queencru

                                        Yes, the USD/CAD rate is nearing 1.30. If I were in the market for Canadian coffee cuffs, I'd be stocking up now.

                              2. To jump back to the grocery bag conversation, I just got back from a trip to the UK, where bringing your own bag is serious. Everyplace you buy something, they ask if you want a bag, including clothing shops, etc. Every supermarket we went to also charged for bags if you needed one, with most of them donating the proceeds to charity. There was definitely a presumption that you already had a bag.