Starbucks is a treat to students before and after classes, but this popular coffee shop is host to plastic waste that students use and discard within minutes of purchase. Students can make easy changes to avoid falling prey to this plastic death trap and take a stand against single-use items.
Senior Anna Lindquist started her low waste journey in April of 2017. One quote that inspired her was something said by Zero Waste Chef Anne-Marie Bonneau.
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly,” Bonneau said.
Lindquist has used the same Eckerd water bottle since her first year and brings it with her whenever she goes to Starbucks. She sees buying Starbucks as a reward for bringing her reusable bottle. If Lindquist forgets to bring her bottle, she doesn’t buy Starbucks that day.
“It’s sort of a responsibility system. You reward yourself when you do bring it and you don’t reward behavior of forgetting it,” Lindquist said.
Students have ample access to reusable bottles and have no reason to not bring them to Starbucks. All first-year students were given metal cups and straws at the start of the year and for those who do not own one there is a wide selection of cups sold at Starbucks for either cash, credit, debit or flex dollars with the meal plan.
“I think it’s a big behavioral change,” Director of Sustainability Evan Bollier said. “They either grew up not using reusable or people often go to the path of least resistance.”
The expectation that disposable cups will always be around is part of the reason that they are still so prevalent in our daily lives. While it may seem drastic at first, consider every opportunity where you can opt for a reusable option instead of a single-use plastic during your coffee run.
“If we are going to have an impact on the microplastics problem or the larger issue of waste, we, as a society, are going to need to stop treating disposable objects as a given,” Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Jesse Sherry said. “It will be a difficult transition at first, but eventually we should reach a point where there is no expectation that you can get disposable cups, silverware, packaging, etc. If they are not available, people will change their behaviors.”
Plastic takes a large sum of energy to make and hundreds of years to degrade. It is ridiculous that all this time and energy goes into the cup when people throw the cup out right after finishing their drinks.
Food bags are another form of plastic waste in abundance at Starbucks, but there are ways around that too. Students can bring their own tupperware to put the food in. They make an impact every time someone refuses a cup, straw, bag or silverware.
“You vote twice. You vote in the ballot, but you also vote with your wallet.” Lindquist said. “If everyone thought we were doing nothing, we would be nowhere.”
While it might be difficult for Starbucks to completely remove all plastics right away, the more actions people take the more likely that future becomes. It is a simple change that creates a huge impact.
“Even if you get one percent better per day in perpetuity, you’re going to be in a far better place a year from today than you are now,” Bollier said. “It just takes one small change, and you might get into the habit of doing it."