I’m a big fan of how your company’s trying to find ways to reduce paper cup waste by encouraging customers to bring their own reusable cups. Unfortunately, we both know these efforts have had a slow start. When I read about how Starbucks’ 10 cent discount doesn’t seem to be helping you achieve your goal of serving 25% of all drinks in reusable cups by 2015, I completely understood your concern.
Jim Hanna, your director of environmental impact brought up a great point: “What we need to focus on when we talk about getting people to use more reusable cups is: What are the existing and perceived barriers that they have to doing it and what are the cultural shifts necessary to make it part of the societal norm?”
In an effort to be a part of the solution, we wrote a blog post asking our customers these same questions. More than 120 customers responded, sharing not only what’s keeping them from bringing reusable cups, but offering creative and exciting ways to solve the problem.
Not surprisingly, most people said they simply often forget to bring a reusable cup, but they’d have an easier time remembering if Starbucks helped them out. Signage, ad campaigns, even a simple reminder from the barista taking their order at the drive-through were all welcome ways to promote this healthy habit.
Up the incentive. Few felt motivated by a 10 cent discount, but several customers suggested a punch card program: bring a reusable cup for 10 drinks, get the 11th free.
Drive-through customers worried about holding up the line by bringing a reusable cup, but would feel better if they knew it was encouraged. Wrote one customer, “Place a sign next to the drive-through speaker [that says] ‘please let us know if you are saving the Earth and brought a reusable cup.’ Starbucks could then make the beverage in a stainless steel canister and simply transfer and add the topping desired at the window. This would not take any more time really. What is 15 seconds of waiting if it helps reduce deforestation?”
Washing reusable cups at the end of the day turned out to be a huge barrier because many customers admitted they simply forget to do it. Our customers got creative and came up with a “cup share” program: “What if they could offer reusables cups that you bought, but could trade in for a clean one when you came in? They could wash/sterilize them and reuse/resell them…kind of like a timeshare, but a cupshare program… it would eliminate the issue with the drive-thru, you just say ‘cupshare’ when you order.”
I was surprised by how many customers had no idea that Starbucks offers ceramic mugs to those drinking their coffee in the cafe. They said that promoting this more would make a huge difference: “One simple way would be to ask customers ‘Is this for here or to go?’ Many people do not even realize that Starbucks has reusable mugs available.
Other ideas that stood out to us: show people what cup waste really looks like, not just online, but in each actual store. Encouraging reusable cup use is one thing, but consider discouraging paper cup use as well. “What if each Starbucks had a compacted cube on display made of the cups they sell on average each day? It would show how much space in the landfill is taken up but all that garbage.”
These are just a few of the many brilliant ideas customers shared. The best part is they’re truly motivated to make a change…they just need someone to take the lead and make it a possibility. We hope you’ll read through the original 120+ comments and be inspired to put some of these ideas into action.
If there’s anything I (or our customers) can do to help, you know we’ll be more than happy to.