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Caribou-clad protesters object to Starbucks’ environmental impact

A protest was held at a new Starbucks opening in Fairhaven on Thursday, Oct. 27, over the company’s economic footprint, namely its cups.

At 9 a.m., two protesters dressed in inflatable caribou costumes entered the Starbucks on Old Fairhaven Parkway, distributing cups and comics to customers detailing their desire for Starbucks to change.

Stand, an advocacy organization, is urging the company to begin using 100 percent recyclable cups, recommit to distributing 25 percent reusable cups and start using 100 percent post-consumer recycled material.

The organization’s mission is to protect forests and climates, and has been working on the protest for months.

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Caribou-clad protesters object to Starbucks’ environmental impact. // Photo by Susan Petris

“We have been in touch with Starbucks since early this year about the cups that they use for hot beverages,” Stand Executive Director Todd Paglia said. “The protest today was a line of many actions, protests and online activities over the last six months to try and change that incredibly destructive, forest destroying cup into something that has a lot less impact.”

Paglia believes the current Starbucks cup has an incredibly high environmental cost. Starbucks cups are currently made from 10 percent recycled material, meaning 90 percent of the material comes from new cut trees.

Starbucks hands out 8,000 cups per minute every day, averaging about 4 billion cups a year, enough to cover the city of Seattle, according to a comic passed out by the protesters.

“That takes a huge toll on our forest, on our climate, and it’s completely unnecessary,” Paglia said.

“There are people and there are creatures that suffer from the choices that Starbucks is making.”

Todd Paglia

In a letter drafted to Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, Stand outlined the importance of Starbucks’ actions as an iconic and influential brand.

“The company is too successful and far too wealthy to continue to borrow from the next generation to increase its profits,” the letter reads. “We believe that the breakout innovations you so ably bring to your operations – a business that has shifted the culture and buying practices of billions of people – can surely be a positive influence on forests and sustainability.”

In 2008 Starbucks outlined a plan to serve 25 percent of all beverages in reusable cups by 2015, but the number was reduced to 5 percent in 2011. After seeing a decrease in customers use in reusable cups, Starbucks addressed its progress in the 2015 Global Responsibility Report.

“We continue to encourage customers to use personal tumblers by offering a discount on beverages, but we believe this behavior change is ultimately up to the customers,” the report said.

Stand wants Starbucks to recommit to its original goal of 25 percent reusable cups for all its beverages.

“There are people and there are creatures that suffer from the choices that Starbucks is making,” Paglia said. “We wanted to bring a little life to the protest.”

This was one of the reasons the protesters wore the critter costumes.

Stand’s letter claims Starbucks is more interested in talking about environmental goals than achieving them.

“We know you can reverse this,” the letter said.

The two men ended their protest by holding up a large banner on Old Fairhaven Parkway which read, “Starbucks, quit cutting trees for cups.”

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