Episode 204: Direct from Davos

January 24, 2020 by  
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What’s the buzz at the World Economic Forum? Plus, GreenBiz Executive Director Shana Rappaport reads between the lines of Starbucks’ new “resource positive” pursuit.

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Episode 204: Direct from Davos

The environmental cost of the pumpkin spice latte

September 13, 2019 by  
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With fall around the corner, the pumpkin spice latte (PSL) has already taken over Starbucks menus across the country, and it’s likely that the crisp mornings will send you straight for the drive-thru. But before you prove your loyalty to the iconic, autumnal beverage, consider the effects your morning brew might have on the environment and your health, from the ingredients to the drive-thru to the disposable cups. The ingredients can be bad for the Earth and our health The recipe varies from one place to another, but it’s worth asking the question, “What is in that pumpkin spice latte, anyway?” Most contain a combination of traditional fall spices, steamed milk, espresso, often sugar and sometimes some pumpkin puree, topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice. While that might sound wholesome, researchers have found things like sulfites, potassium sorbate and annatto, which have been linked to breathing conditions, damage to genetic material and effects on blood pressure. Even when Starbucks announced its intention to switch to real pumpkin instead of a mixture of artificial flavors, other ingredients might also be problematic, such as commercially produced milk and non-organic pumpkin that contributes antibiotics, pesticides , insecticides and herbicides to our diets and ecosystems. Organic is a better option, and some groups have pressured Starbucks to make the change to no avail. Related: The problem with coffee pods and the eco-friendly alternatives to use instead You should also know the concoction is barely even coffee, with a very low amount of caffeine. While it’s difficult to know exactly what’s mixed into your cup, before you indulge, do your own research about what you’re ordering. Note that a 16-ounce cup, or “grande,” with 2 percent milk and whipped cream serves up 380 calories , 14 grams of fat, 52 grams of carbs and 50 grams of sugar. PSL impacts our planet in many ways Cultivating the ingredients for your cup of seasonal Joe is rough on the planet. Consider the impact to the Amazon alone, where 2.5 million acres have been cleared in favor of coffee plantations over the past few decades. Sure, your single PSL isn’t to blame, but the cultural and habitual elements of the daily coffee run are; not to mention the whipped cream topping and the ever-growing awareness of the effect cattle has on the planet. Animal agriculture is one of our planet’s largest contributors to air quality issues, making that frothy topping and milky foundation anything but a treat. Then, there is the fact that coffee is a water-intensive crop, with Mother Nature Network reporting that it takes about 37 gallons of water to grow and process the coffee beans to make one cup of coffee . Take into account the process of making a cup of PSL and washing dishes afterward, too. Humans are responsible for polluting our waterways , which comes as no surprise after many years of headlines regarding landfills, lawn fertilizer runoff and microbeads. What you might not realize is something as simple as a cup of PSL can result in water pollution. While it might not be as toxic as Roundup , a group called Sound Citizen has monitored the waterways around the Pacific Northwest for the past decade and reported finding higher amounts of cinnamon and pumpkin spice throughout the fall season. PSLs leave a trail of waste Following the damage that the ingredients of the PSL have on the planet is the waste left behind. To perform at the level we expect, manufacturers coat the disposable paper cups in plastic, for which the planet does not thank us. Even when the paper manages to break down naturally, the residual plastic is left to sit in the soil and eventually the waterways. Add to that the plastic lids and straws (unless of course, you have your own ), and you’ve contributed plentiful carbon emissions and landfill waste in a single sip. The larger point to this is that everything we produce and consume has an effect on the water and earth, from the pumpkin and coffee remnants tossed at the cafe to the garbage full of drippy, plastic-lined cups to the waste we release in our urine. How to enjoy an eco-friendly PSL You might not be able to pass up the PSL 100 percent of the time, and we’re not saying you should, but awareness is a huge part of the battle. There are several things you can do to lessen the burden on the planet. Firstly, bring your own refillable cup and skip the single-use option. At the very least, avoid the lid and straw. Secondly, skip the whipped cream and opt for soy or almond milk options. Finally, avoid idling in the drive-thru. Organize coffee stop carpools at the office, walk to your morning spot or at least turn off the engine while you wait. Related: The homesteader’s guide to a perfect pumpkin spice latte Another alternative option is to make your own PSL at home. Enjoy the warmth and endearing scent emanating from your mug with ingredients sourced locally. Plus, using your own recipe means you know what went into it, like organic milk and pumpkin. If you’re not sold on making your own concoction, seek out local coffee shops that offer organic and natural ingredients. Cheers! Via Care2 , Society 19 , Earth Day , Independent , Mother Nature Network and Atlas Obscura Images via Pexels , Mimzy , Robert Couse-Baker , Daniel Spils and Jill Wellington

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The environmental cost of the pumpkin spice latte

Bending the line: How better design can transition a linear economy to a circular one

June 15, 2019 by  
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From Interface to Starbucks to Patagonia, companies are starting to make products and packaging with end-of-life top-of-mind.

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Bending the line: How better design can transition a linear economy to a circular one

The problem with coffee pods and the eco-friendly alternatives to use instead

March 28, 2019 by  
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Many Americans have become accustomed to using single-serving brewers to make their morning cup of coffee. Not only are these coffee pods — such as K-Cups and Nespresso pods — convenient to use, but they come in an assortment of flavors and coffee types to meet anyone’s taste. While coffee pods are a convenience of modern times, they come with a dark side. The vast majority of these plastic capsules end up in our  landfills  every year, contributing to the  growing problem of plastic pollution . Fortunately, there are viable alternatives to the  single-use  coffee pod — and even coffee distributors like Keurig are doing their best to address the problem. What are coffee pods? Coffee capsules, like K-Cups and Nespresso pods, are typically filled with enough coffee  grounds for a single cup of a caffeinated (or decaffeinated) beverage. They generally consist of small plastic containers fitted with an aluminum foil lid. Once the coffee has been dispensed, the containers are no longer of use and are disposed of in the trash. The coffee pods end up in a variety of places after they are thrown away. The majority of them end their lives in landfills, though a good amount ends up in rivers, lakes and ultimately oceans. The plastic containers eventually break apart into smaller chunks, which can endanger  wildlife . Why are they so popular? Coffee pods have been around since the ’90s , but they only recently boomed in popularity. The rise of single-use coffee pods happened in 2012, when the number of pod users jumped to around 10 percent. That number has steadily risen over the years. According to USA Today , over 40 percent of residents in the United States have purchased a single-cup coffee brewer at some point in time. Convenience is the biggest reason people are switching over to coffee pods, and companies, like Keurig, Folgers, Starbucks and Kraft Heinz, have made them more accessible than ever. Coffee pods are difficult to recycle One big issue with coffee pods is that they are frequently too small to recycle . The sorting systems used in recycling plants have trouble picking them up, which means most of them end up in the trash. Related: This British cafe is serving to-go coffee in ceramic mugs to combat waste There are a few companies that use aluminum coffee capsules, which are easier to recycle. The downside, however, is that aluminum exposure is a health concern. Luckily, companies are looking into making pods out of polypropylene, which can be shredded and recycled. How many coffee pods end up in landfills? It is difficult to determine how many coffee capsules end up in the trash on an annual basis. Some researchers estimate that there were enough coffee pods buried in landfills in 2014 to go around the Earth 10.5 times, though other estimates put that number at 12. In 2018 alone, Keurig sold close to 10 billion K-Cups, though its new multi-cup pods are recyclable. Speaking of recyclable pods, more and more companies are offering these eco-friendly alternatives . In fact, Keurig plans to become completely recyclable by next year, though it is still up to users to actually put them in the recycling bin. Compostable and biodegradable options There are a few companies, such as San Francisco Bay Gourmet Coffee, that offer biodegradable and compostable pods. These pods can be placed in compost bins, or users can put them in their home compost piles. Related: HuskeeCup is an eco-friendly cup made entirely from coffee waste The downside to these pods is that you need to have a public composting facility in your town if you are not composting at home. You should also know that the biodegradable pods still take a long time to break down and are not that beneficial to the environment. Refillable pods With  plastic waste  continuing to be an issue around the world, the best way to improve the environment is to curb our dependence on single-use plastics altogether. To that end, the better alternative is coffee pods that are  refillable and reusable . These pods are not thrown away after use and can be cleaned and refilled on a daily basis. There are several companies that offer reusable capsules, including Keurig, Fill ‘n’ Save and Eko-Brew. Just ensure the refillable pod fits your machine before purchasing one. Single-serve alternatives For those who have not purchased a Keurig coffee maker or are looking to switch things up, there are single-serve systems that do not use plastic pods. In fact, several coffee makers have features that enable users to make anywhere between one to 12 cups of coffee at a time. This includes Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach. French press systems are another good alternative to using coffee pods. A few companies even have single-serve French press machines, some of which attach themselves on top of a coffee mug. What does the future hold for coffee pods? Given the environmental concerns, the future of coffee capsules remains in question. If companies are able to produce more eco-friendly alternatives to the plastic model, it is possible that single-serve pods will continue to grow in popularity. If the environmental concerns are not addressed, there are fortunately other alternatives that will hopefully replace the single-use pods once and for all. Images via Shutterstock, Tony Webster and Inhabitat

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The problem with coffee pods and the eco-friendly alternatives to use instead

Starbucks unveils store built from 29 recycled shipping containers in Taiwan

October 8, 2018 by  
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Starbucks Taiwan will debut its first Asia Pacific store that is built from recycled shipping containers in the Hualien Bay Mall. The mall has yet to be opened to the public, but it is situated in a touristic area of the city that is well known for its cuisine and features breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and neighboring mountains. The store spans two stories totaling 320 square meters (approximately 3,445 square feet) and features comfortable seating areas where guests are invited to congregate over a cup of Starbucks’ finest. Starbucks is the first retailer to claim space in the newly built mall. It does so using 29 shipping containers that have been refashioned by famous Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma, who has his name signed to two Starbucks store designs already: the Fukuoka branch in Japan and the upcoming Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Tokyo. Related: Starbucks ditches plastic straws for the environment Inspired by a combination of Chinese architecture and nature, the Taiwan edition receives patrons under traditional bucket arches connoting the overhanging foliage of coffee trees . Inside, the store features warm decor and a comfortable seating area spanning two stories that Kuma decided to stack, creating a much taller space that allows for natural sunlight to enter through skylights installed throughout. These skylights illuminate a brightly illustrated mural at one end of the store, designed as a tribute to the vibrant Hualien culture. The wall mural tames the geometric roughness of the cargo containers, creating a sociable space alongside aboriginal Amis figures whose heritage run deep within the city’s culture. At the other end of the store, visitors are invited to enjoy the beautiful mountain landscape that forms a picturesque backdrop to the port city. Related: A disused railway will become a sustainable green corridor in Taiwan The project is part of Starbucks’ recently announced “Starbucks Greener Stores.” The initiative is aimed at building sustainable stores, which will be designed and operated using reclaimed materials . The Taiwan store joins a suite of locations also built from shipping containers, 45 of which can be found in the U.S. already. The Seattle coffee-chain prefabricates the models offsite before delivery, allowing the company to occupy spaces not necessarily designed for traditional stores. By avoiding the damaging environmental effects generally output on building sites, Starbucks is committed to minimizing its environmental footprint. + Starbucks Images via Starbucks

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Starbucks unveils store built from 29 recycled shipping containers in Taiwan

Nature-inspired Teak House welcomes Vietnams lush forests indoors

October 8, 2018 by  
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Architect Pham Thanh Huy of Vietnamese design firm 282 Design recently renovated a villa into the Teak House, a Northern European-inspired getaway in the cool highlands of Ng?c Thanh in northern Vietnam. Inspired by the surrounding pine forest landscape and spurred by sustainable principles, Pham Thanh Huy created the contemporary home mainly with teak wood sourced from sustainably managed forests . In addition to the predominate timber palette indoors, the house embraces the living forest with full-height walls of glass as well as with a live tree that grows up through the center of the residence. Located on a pine hill in Flamingo Dai Lai Resort, the renovated Teak House serves as a retreat from the busy city. Spanning an area of 460 square meters across two stories, Teak House is clad in a combination of teak wood and rough artificial stone, materials that are carried over to the interior to blur the line between indoor and outdoor living . Teak was selected for its durability, which was of particular importance because of the harsh climate in northern Vietnam. To keep the focus on the outdoors, the interiors are minimally and cleanly detailed. The furnishings are mainly Nordic in style, including the suspended fireplace. The ground floor of the residence includes a living room, kitchen and dining room that connect to the front yard and back garden. On the mezzanine level is a small bedroom, while two additional bedrooms are found on the floor above, as is a long lap pool on the upper floor. Related: Beautiful light-filled home puts a modern twist on the humble bungalow “Teak House is the result of a journey seeking for the beauty of architecture in the interplay between culture and environment,” the architect said in a project statement. “In this interesting and arduous journey, we have been looking for the harmony of architecture, interiors, materials and natural wood techniques to create a delicate and sustainable house.” + 282 Design Via ArchDaily Images by Quang Tran

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Nature-inspired Teak House welcomes Vietnams lush forests indoors

Kroger plans plastic bag phase-out by 2025

August 25, 2018 by  
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The Kroger supermarket conglomerate announced on Thursday that it is planning a phase-out of plastic bags at all store locations as part of its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste commitment . The company owns more than 2,700 stores throughout 35 states, including popular chains such as Harris Teeter, Fred Meyer and Ralphs. Related: UK bag tariff halves plastic bag marine litter, reduces sales of plastic bags by 86% Kroger is making a “bold move that will better protect our planet,” according to CEO Rodney McMullen. “We listen very closely to our customers and our communities, and we agree with their growing concerns,” added Executive Vice President and COO Mike Donnelly in a press release. Seattle’s QFC grocery stores will be the first of Kroger’s chains to fully eliminate plastic bags, achieving the goal as early as next year. “Starting today at QFC, we will begin the transition to more sustainable options. This decision aligns with our Restock Kroger commitment to live our purpose through social impact,” announced Donnelly. Between the Zero Hunger | Zero Waste and the Restock Kroger commitments, the company hopes to divert 90 percent of waste from landfills by 2020 and provide food to families and individuals in need. Last year alone, the conglomerate sent more than 91 million pounds of safe, nutritious food to local food banks and homes, providing over 325 million meals in total. In 2017, 66.15 million pounds of plastic and 2.43 billion pounds of cardboard were recycled. Kroger, however, wants to achieve more. Related: Starbucks ditches plastic straws for the environment Estimates suggest that less than five percent of plastic bags are recycled annually in America and nearly 100 billion are thrown away each year. Single-use plastic bags are the fifth most common plastic pollutant, harming waterways and marine ecosystems. Harmful microplastics result from the breakdown process and have made their way into soils, waters, air, and nearly everything we ingest. That’s why Kroger, rather than merely lessening the number of plastic bags, plans to eliminate them completely by providing reusable, recyclable multi-use bags. Kroger joins companies such as Starbucks, McDonald’s and the Marriot International Group in a stand to eliminate single-use plastics, which follows legislation banning them in states such as Hawaii and California. + CNN + Kroger + NPR Image via Pixabay

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Kroger plans plastic bag phase-out by 2025

Here’s why you might see a cancer warning on your coffee in California

March 30, 2018 by  
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The battle has been raging for years: is coffee a carcinogen or not? A judge in California wants to put the matter to rest – and he’s declared that there’s enough evidence for risk that California coffee sellers should have to post cancer warnings. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the science is settled. For eight years, a lawsuit between the non-profit Council for Education and Research on Toxics and big coffee has been raging in the courts. The non-profit states that acrylamide, which is used in processing the beans, is a known carcinogen and potentially harmful to anyone who consumes coffee. Related: Could coffee help fight cancer? But a lawsuit involving Starbucks and 90 other coffee makers claim that the chemical exists in small enough concentrations that it’s no big deal. This week, Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle ruled that the coffee companies hadn’t defended their argument and that coffee sellers should have to warn buyers of the risks. Science hasn’t been able to completely answer the question. Some studies show that coffee actually helps lower your risk for some cancers, and the jury is still out on its impact for other cancers. Coffee makers have a few weeks to challenge the ruling before the order would go into effect. Via CNBC Images via Unsplash ( 1, 2 )

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Here’s why you might see a cancer warning on your coffee in California

The 5 stages of materiality grief

February 26, 2018 by  
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Companies like Sanofi, Unilever and Starbucks took the journey from grief to value.

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The 5 stages of materiality grief

Does Starbucks Belong in Yosemite?

January 22, 2018 by  
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When most people visit one of America’s beautiful national parks, … The post Does Starbucks Belong in Yosemite? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Does Starbucks Belong in Yosemite?

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