08/05/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Starbucks: From Fair-trade Zero to Local Hero?

starbucks green


Starbucks is already Fair-Trade. Now, they say they're going green--and supporting local--by 2010.


If they actually do it, I might have to give up my 15-year buycott of Starbucks. I used to dislike 'em 'cause they put my favorite local cafes outta business in Boston, Cambridge etc. Then I moved back to my hometown of Boulder, and looked with shriveled eyes at idiot college kids and yuppies who hung about their non-local Starbucks, spending money on The Man.

Then, Starbucks not only got on the Fair-trade wagon, but started leading the charge. Hmmm, I said, and turned my Conscious Consumer Alarm off the Starbucks channel.

Then, Starbucks pioneered the 10% recycled content to-go cup (something my favorite-ever local cafe, from which I'm writing this piece, still doesn't do). May not sound like a big deal, but no one else was doing it, and Starbucks' very size--the cause of We the People's resentment for years--suddenly becomes a very (very) good thing when they start using that power eco-responsibly. They also offer a discount (a paltry, but still didn't-have-to-do-it 10 cents) to anyone who uses a reusable cup.

Then, I read that Starbucks not only didn't put local cafes out of business, but that locally-owned cafes actually thrived in towns where Starbucks moved in. Apparently, Starbucks served as a gateway drug (or ambassador) to the masses...they went to Starbucks, developed a fancy for overpriced fancy coffee, then took that fancy next door to their local cafe. Humph, I said, and grudgingly stopped hating Starbucks at all. This was a year or so ago.

Then, this morning, I read this, via Brandweek. Excerpt:

...On Thursday, Starbucks announced that the company aims to earn LEED certification on all new company-owned stores beginning in 2010.

Cool, I said to myself. If it actually happens, that is. Every big company's always making big pronouncements about what they'll do in the future. If they said they'd start right away, I'd be sold. The article continued...

Among the company's eco-friendly goals for all new company-owned stores are that 50 percent of each store's energy be derived from renewable sources, and that they will be 25 percent more energy efficient. The company has set long-term goals

whatever that means

including replacing all stores' incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs and ensuring 100 percents of its cup supply is reusable or recyclable by 2015.

Nice! Why not do it now: Bonnaroo, the Suns, my local football stadium and many local cafes are already doing it.

Beyond the energy-saving measures, the company aims to give its stores a more local feel. All new and renovated stores beginning in 2010 will tap the skills of local craftsmen and use materials associated with the store's neighborhood.

Okay, you got me. This is thinking that reflects real inspiration, not just greenwashing or aping local cafes that've been doing such for years without needing to get all Press Release about it.

One recently built store that reflects this new strategy is the company's 1st Avenue and Pike Street store in Seattle, opened in March of 2009. The bar's leather façade is made of scrap leather from local shoe and automobile factories, the cabinets from fallen trees in the Seattle area, and the community table from a nearby restaurant.

So cool. So cool. So cool. Do this everywhere and I'll become a patron. And I drink a lot of coffee, as my ever-shaking hands attest.

"We recognize the importance of continuously evolving with our customers' interests, lifestyles and values in order to stay relevant over the long term," said Arthur Rubinfeld...

And remember, Starbucks always does well in Fortune's "Best Companies to Work For" rankings, along with Whole Foods and other such. And whatever their faults, let's be grateful they don't use styrofoam, like Dunkin' Donuts, or genetically engineered coffee beans, like Nestle.

Tweet me: you can follow Waylon Lewis at @elephantjournal.

With thanks for the tip to:

love tomorrow today

Via my first eco idol, Umbra, a great writer over at