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starbucks cups, starbucks reusable cups
Photo by Sorin Sîrbu on Unsplash

Starbucks disposable cup.

As a millennial born in 1988, it’s hard for me to think about coffee without in turn thinking about Starbucks. Since expanding nationwide in the 1990s, Starbucks has completely changed coffee culture. Some might say for better, others for worse. But a lasting change to say the least.

Even the Starbucks cups are famous. Odds are you’ve seen one in its regular white and green form (if you’re not drinking from one at this very moment, that is) or in a festive shade of red for the holiday season. Either way, it’s instantly recognizable. Or as Starbucks Chief Sustainability Officer Michael Kobori calls it, “ubiquitous.”

But in an interview with CNN Business, Kobori warns that these easily tossed disposable cups are also a “ubiquitous symbol of a throwaway society.”

With Starbucks serving around 6 billion disposable cups per year, he’s not wrong. Though the cups are recyclable, that doesn’t stop them from being thrown into landfills, if not littering the streets directly.

That’s why Kobori shares the company’s new solution: “eliminating the disposable cup” entirely by 2025.


The plan is to make the option of single-use paper or plastic cups much less attractive, similar to their swapping straws for lids with cold drinks. This includes possibly charging a small fee to use disposable cups, while experimenting with discounts and incentives to pull customers to the “green” side.

By the end of 2022, the company plans to allow customers to use their own reusable mugs, something that was temporarily suspended due to COVID-19. This time, however, being environmentally conscious might get you anywhere from 10 to 15 cents. Which any caffeine-aholic knows easily adds up day after day.
starbucksSnow White Coffee GIFGiphy

Starbucks is also considering adopting a borrow-a-mug program, where customers pay a small refundable deposit in exchange for a cup rental.

The company did a two-month beta version of the program in none other than Starbucks’ hometown of Seattle. When customers returned the cup, they not only got their $1 deposit back, they also received 10 rewards points. Though many customers have come to rely on Starbucks for its convenience, the test was positively received. Store Manager Kim Davis noted that both the baristas and customers were on board, saying that “the excitement and engagement was really high.”

There is still one major obstacle: the drive-thru window. Oh, and mobile orders. So make that two obstacles. These are simple conveniences that customers have come to expect from Starbucks. It’s a brilliant move for the business model, but makes the sustainability goal a bit more complicated. Especially considering that more than half of all sales are made by people cruising by in their cars or ordering on the app.

starbucks cupsAnne Hathaway Starbucks GIFGiphy

A few mock-up stores have been set up to test different options. One being obvious: customers simply handing over their reusable cups to the barista at the drive-thru window. Another is to have them drop off their cup at an earlier drive-thru point, so that the drink is ready once they swing around to pay. Plus premaking the drinks to then pour into the reusable cups once the driver pulls up. I can see the potential for mess with that last one, but the point is: Solutions are being tested.

As for the mobile purchases, that seems to be an especially tall order. Venti, even. But Starbucks is nothing if not innovative. On more than one occasion, the company's forward thinking has completely changed the coffee game. It made “single origin” hip, nondairy milk and plant-based food accessible, and folk jazz the official cafe sound. It certainly feels like if any single business entity can guide us as a society toward improved coffee habits, it’s the one repped by the green mermaid.

May her siren song lead us all to a better, more sustainable future.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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