Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Are the Little Things Enough?

I'm sitting in Starbucks and supposed to be writing my book, but, instead, I've been distracted by their garbage cans. On a completely unrelated note: in case any of you ever dream of writing your own book, you should check out National Novel Writing Month which challenges, motivates, and pushes you (beyond the procrastination!) to write 50,000 words in a month!

How could the garbage can be compelling enough to distract me? It is the little sign on it announcing that it isn't a garbage can. Actually, it contains free packages of used coffee grounds that you can take home to your garden. Coffee grounds make a great mulch for your flowerbeds. I also remember my mom using them when I was young to change the color of her hydrangeas (enough coffee will change the pH balance of the soil).
I am sipping my non-fat Chai latte (and enjoying my 10cent discount for bringing my own cup), while watching the Starbucks guy point at the lightbulbs. I assume he is here as part of their recent announcement to convert 8,000 more stores to LED lighting.

Changing a lightbulb is a small step, but does it contribute to the bigger picture? In the case of Starbucks, they are aiming for a 7% reduction in energy use per store as part of a broader goal to decrease their total energy usage by 25% by the end of 2010. When they first looked into changing light bulbs, they weren't happy with the choices available (any of you have CFC lightbulbs at home that are a little funky in terms of brightness or color?) so they worked with GE to create something that worked for them.

I won't say that Starbucks is great for the environment, but I do think they are offering a good role model of a company who is looking at their individual footprint and finding a way to lessen it - while keeping us Seattleites (and the rest of the world) in warm, caffeinated drinks. Oh...and in regards to those millions of cups that get sent to the landfills? Here's their answer: use a commuter cup if you're on the go, ask for a ceramic cup when you're in a store (I didn't even know that was an option). By 2015, they are aiming for 100% recyclable or reusable cups.
What do you think? Do the little steps add up or is it entirely missing the point about changing our ways?

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