When You Try Your Best But You Don’t Succeed…

… and it’s all due to corporate greed.

The rhyme was irresistible, but not inaccurate. While attempting to build our action project we started out with lofty goals, that were just short of realization. We were going to have UW Dining, a professor from the environmental studies department, a representative from Imperfect Produce and one from Starbucks feature on a panel about food waste. The inclusion of Starbucks and UW Dining stemmed from my personal experience with the amount of food that Suzzalo Starbucks wastes every week, an issue I had raised with a supervisor but was instead confronted with the issues of the “red tape” of being a state institution. For two fairly environmentally savvy and progressive institutions I was surprised at their apparent disregard or disinterest in something so environmentally detrimental. I was hoping that perhaps they could elaborate on some of the restrictions businesses face in reducing food waste.

I worked on contacting Starbucks and initially met with a very positive response and was immediately matched with a Partner for Sustainability. But her willingness to collaborate with us was diminished following Starbucks announcing their $500 million dollar a year loss to food waste and a merger with Nestle, who my contact had just been informed would be her new employer.

As my group worked to adapt our plan, since our panel of just Imperfect Produce no longer seemed like a worthwhile option, I realized that I really was a source in-and-of myself for the business practices of Starbucks, and so I started paying attention at work. Through researching our new website I began to connect food waste to the various forms of waste it represented.

In addition to noticing the amount of food thrown out at the end of the day I started to notice other areas of waste. After making a drink baristas place pitchers used to make each drink on a water spout to rinse it off, but often these pitchers are left rinsing as baristas finish up drinks and call them out, wasting water with each cup. Our machines print a receipt after every purchase, despite an extremely small percentage of customers ever requesting it. The recycling bins in the café are thrown into the garbage to avoid fees incurred for non-recyclables being mixed in. And I noticed how often despite all this waste I heard employees criticize the less fortunate that would come into the store. Despite how the food we throw out could be helping those people in need.

Ultimately I came to realize we all need a little more understanding in our lives.

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