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Let’s Discuss Starbucks’s Earth Month Initiatives -- Among Many Others

By: Eiman N.

Photo from: Edie

In celebration of Earth Month inApril, Starbucks launched their “Starbucks Earth Month Game” for their rewards members -- a combination of “Choice and Chance,” an instant win game, and “Play and Plant,” a puzzle game. Members could earn plays on eligible transactions at participating stores. The instant win game allowed members to select items for chances to win giveaways of free non-dairy drinks, discounts on select food items and reusable merch, as well as sweepstakes with grand prizes such as free non-dairy drinks for an entire year. The puzzle portion was more interactive with the consumers -- with each level they completed, they were able to vote on the One Tree Planted reforestation effort Starbucks would donate 250,000 trees to -- Habitats for Biodiversity, Forest Fire Restoration, Clean Water, or Climate Stability. More info can be found here.

The game was interactive and encouraged sustainability within Starbucks’s customers using different incentives such as weekly activities or ‘tasks’ to earn additional plays. Some included ditching the single-use plastic straws, ordering meatless breakfast items, and informing oneself about food waste and how to combat it through reading various articles.

In addition to this game, Starbucks launched a number of new sustainable initiatives in an article on their news and stories site at the end of April. They reflected on their 50th anniversary and touched upon their goals for the future, especially in terms of sustainability.

At the end of 2020, Starbucks affirmed their Planet Positive initiative -- a “multi-decade commitment to become a resource positive company, including goals to reduce its carbon, water, and waste footprints by 50 percent by 2030.” Details about the plan can be found here. In the Earth Month article, Starbucks circled back to this plan with a new recently announced goal -- “achieve Carbon Neutral Green Coffee and conserve water usage in green coffee processing by 50% by 2030.”

In addition, Starbucks discussed their recently introduced Odyssey Blend, crafted from three different regions of coffee that “embody the innovative and responsible ways in which the farmers in the regions grow, cultivate, and process coffee.” The beans are sourced from West Java, Rwanda, and Peru. All of these locations were chosen due to their embodiment of their coffee, people, and planet, along with the innovation and responsibility seen by the farmers who grow, cultivate and process coffee in these regions. On each bag is a QR code that directs customers to a link where they are able to learn more about the history, journey, people, and places behind the Odyssey Blend.

Starbucks’s final Earth Month initiative was new reusable merchandise in the color mint green. This included to-go hot and cold cups, in addition to a sustainably-made reusable tote.

It is evident that Starbucks did its fair share in participating in Earth Month, as many other companies do. Large companies are known just to advertise for Earth Month, or even just Earth Day itself, as a way of keeping up with the social landscape and acknowledging the concept of climate change and the need to shift to a more resourceful and sustainable future. Despite all this, however, many large companies do not have any goals or plans to make themselves more resourceful and sustainable. Does Starbucks fall into this category as well?

The answer is no. Starbucks’s Planet Positive initiative proves this, as it is a detailed and comprehensive plan that plays out for a number of decades to achieve both large and small goals concerning sustainability and contributions to reversing the effects of climate change and improving their role in contributing to the state of the environment. This initiative is more of a behind-the-scenes, large-scale goal that customers won’t see play out in front of their eyes, but through data, reports, and time, research will show how the company is doing and if their goals are being met.

On a smaller scale, consumers have been able to see how Starbucks is becoming more sustainable. Most drinks now do not require straws as the company replaced them with “sip lids,” there are a wide variety of tumblrs and reusable hot-and-cold cups, and the menu has grown to accommodate more non-dairy drinks and meatless food items.

Overall, Starbucks’s Earth Month initiatives aligned with their company’s practices regarding sustainability and long-term environmental goals. While they still have a long way to go in becoming fully green, Starbucks has taken the proper first steps and laid out detailed plans and framework that they now have a public responsibility to follow to ensure their success.

Discussion Questions:

  • What do you think of Starbucks’s Earth Month initiatives? Could they have done more, less, or did they do the perfect amount?

  • How can other companies who may be greenwashing follow in Starbucks’s steps?

  • While Starbucks may be ahead in their environmental agenda, there are still many social issues that they face backlash for -- such as their handling of the Black Lives Matter movement? Does their advanced environmental agenda allow for consumers to gloss over other aspects? Should consumers hold Starbucks accountable in terms of all social issues, or just praise one and ignore the other?


Allen, K. (2021, April 1). Starbucks Has An Earth Month Game With More Than 2.5 Million Prizes Up For Grabs. Retrieved May 04, 2021, from

Staff, U. (2021, April 01). 6 brands helping you Celebrate earth month this year. Retrieved May 04, 2021, from


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