Wasteful chains like Starbucks and the part you play.

I found the Colombian Starbucks. It’s called Juan Valdez and, while it’s a lovely spot with nice spaces for working and socializing, I dislike it for the same reason I dislike Starbucks: They’re wasteful. Oh, so wasteful!

Unless otherwise requested, these cafes serve every.single.coffee in a disposable cup. They serve every.single.snack on a disposable plate. They have reusable mugs and plates, but you have to ask for them. I always do, but I’ve never seen anyone else get a reusable mug or plate. Ever.

The bigger a chain is, the more efficient they need to be. Reusable mugs means the cafe employees would have to wash them, clear them from the tables, and deal with the occasional broken mug. Paper cups are cheap, can be disposed of by the customer (though here in Colombia, it seems the cups just get left on the tables), and can be handled with a lot less care. It’s much more efficient, which means they make more money.

But at what cost?

I’m not going to pretend I know a whole lot about recycling and waste and costs of running a cafe. But it seems pretty obvious to me that producing this much waste is not ideal (even if it is recyclable). A cafe could (and should) produce almost zero waste. Everything can be served in/on reusable mugs/plates and those recycling containers could be near-empty at the end of the day, rather than overflowing with cups, plates, and napkins. I’m disgusted thinking about it, especially considering that those bins could be nearly empty with a little extra effort on the part of the cafe.

But that would be less efficient, which means less money. So they stick with their disposable mugs, with no thought about the impact this has on our Earth.

The ball’s in the customer’s court. So, I urge you, if you are going to consume in these chain cafes, ask for that ceramic mug. Refuse the napkin unless you really need it (better yet, only order items after which you won’t need to use a napkin). And if you order food, ask for a ceramic (or whatever reusable material) plate and fork/knife/spoon. It requires no extra effort to you, and even feels nicer (who wouldn’t prefer drinking a warm coffee from a ceramic mug than a paper cup?).

The cafes have it, they just don’t want to have to use it.

Do your part: Make them use it!

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