MarComedy: Don’t make me laugh

For what tickles my fancy in media, communications and life in general.

Details – Starbucks’ Environmental Commitment

with 6 comments

Starbucks (front)

I’m sure we’ve all seen this before. It’s the sleeve that Starbucks gives you so you don’t burn your fingers on a cup of their coffee. It’s also an output of their social responsibility programming. Starbucks, to their credit, has been active and progressive in their CSR activities – placing an strong emphasis on using only fair trade coffee, reducing their environmental footprint and leveraging their purchasing power to work only with suppliers that help them minimize their impact on the environment. All very noble efforts that I am in no position to argue with or criticize.

I got this sleeve after ordering my standard venti latte, extra hot, no foam. I am, it seems, rather simply in my own coffee consumption. But I found something troubling when I turned over to the other side of the sleeve (you should be able to click on it for a closer inspection).


There are two prominent pieces of text on the back of the sleeve. The first talks about Starbucks’ commitment to reducing their environment impact – great! It even has a call-to-action for consumers to help them help the planet. Okay, no issues there. The second piece of text, right below the first statement, mentions how this is the first 60% post-consumer fiber sleeve. Again, great. This is tangible proof of Starbucks’ environmental commitment.

But there are also two things that I find to be completely at odds with these two statements.

1. There is no recycling symbol on the sleeve.

2. If you look closely, right above the legal jargon protecting Starbucks rights and patents, you’ll see the phrase "Intended for single use only".

That statement & omission seem to me at odds with everything else that Starbucks says and does regarding their environmental policies and programs. Are we not to recycle this sleeve? Instead just use it once and throw it out with the rest of the garbage? It seems that post consumer fibers can still be recycled. Shouldn’t Starbucks make sure that they pay attention to the details and do all that they can to get consumers to take heed of the ‘help us help’ call-to-action?

I’d like to think that this is not what Starbucks intended. However, these details, though likely unnoticed by the vast majority of consumers – I, for example, have consumed hundreds of Starbucks coffees without picking up on this – are troubling to me.

Sadly, for me, Starbucks trips up in this attempt to walk to talk…

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

June 3, 2007 at 9:16 pm

6 Responses

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  1. How about asking for a venti latte, extra hot, no foam, no sleeve latte?


    June 8, 2007 at 3:26 pm

  2. Well then there’s the danger of burning my fingers (extra hot) and polluting the environment/poisoning impressionable minds with my cursing.

    Jonathan Dunn

    June 8, 2007 at 3:35 pm

  3. Okay Doofus “intended for single use only” does not mean do not recycle. It means that it shouldn’t be used for more than one customer because of sanitary reasons. At least that’s what it means when something medical says the exact same words. It’s kind of butt covering sort of phrase I think.


    September 21, 2007 at 7:04 pm

  4. @ Andrea. While I’m thrilled you felt strongly enough about this to comment, I take exception to you calling me a ‘doofus’…especially when your own comment contains the fine literary masterpiece “It’s kind of butt covering sort
    of phrase I think.” But I digress…

    I’m not sure why we would assume that ‘single use’ means the same thing for Starbucks as it does for medical products. As far as I can tell, Starbucks coffee, cups or sleeves are not medical products. We’re talking about two completely different contexts and products in that case.

    The point of the post was to suggest that, even though Starbucks does a good job with their environmental efforts, they should pay attention to details that could contradict or undermine that position. You’ll notice the sleeve doesn’t have the universal symbol for recycle either…

    Jonathan Dunn

    September 21, 2007 at 7:15 pm

  5. i work for starbucks corp. (Barista) and it makes me happy to know I’m working for a company that recycles… but i agree, the recycle symbol would be nice…

    have you checked out the Ethos water you can buy for $1.00? it helps get clean water to those third world countries, which i think is super duper… anyway i think starbucks should switch to 100% recycled paper receipts… since most people throw them away anyway, why throw away “new” paper. anywho, thats the way i see it… lol

    -Aaron, Las Vegas, NV


    November 8, 2007 at 12:25 pm

  6. You make a really good point. I think Starbucks really tries hard to adhere to their own mission statement, but there’s always room for improvement. They have this fabulous little system called a mission review. It’s a postcard that you fill out and send in with your comments on mission statement violations like the ones you’ve observed with the sleeve. They guarantee you an answer in six weeks or less and better yet, they actually make changes based on the comments. You can pick a mission review comment card up at any store. I’ll fill out one too, becuase this is something they should be aware of.

    Shelby Pierce

    February 20, 2008 at 11:00 am

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