A Starbucks store is certified as a “Greener Store” when it successfully meets 25 required standards, as verified by an outside auditor, across eight environmental impact areas such as energy efficiency, water stewardship and waste diversion. The standards were developed in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and SCS Global Services.
"The Greener Stores journey is truly a Starbucks-wide effort, from our store designers and construction teams to software developers who ensure we can collect sustainability data on a global scale to our store partners (employees) who encourage customers to use reusable cups or Grounds for Your Garden,” says Grace Yoo, Starbucks Greener Stores global program manager.
"Most of them look no different from any other Starbucks store,” Yoo says, “but there are Greener Stores quietly opening and operating all throughout the world, with unglamorous details like energy-efficient dishwashers, water-saving faucets, and carefully thought-out waste diversion signage to help do our part in mitigating the effects of climate change.”
As of April 2023, Starbucks has certified more than 3,500 Greener Stores in the U.S. and Canada. This month, 88 Greener Stores were certified in 18 additional markets around the world, such as Argentina, Vietnam and the United Kingdom. Starbucks goal is to certify 10,000 Greener Stores around the world by 2025.
What makes a Greener Store?
At the 2023 Greener Store of the Year in Los Angeles, Starbucks is piloting a water-reclamation project that takes the residual moisture from the store’s ice machine and water-filtration system – that would normally flow into the sewer – and diverts it instead into four 55-gallon storage tanks. Every time the store’s toilet flushes, it uses water from those tanks.
The store has reclaimed about 2,500 gallons of water from January through March 2023, and is using about 27 gallons per day, on average, of reclaimed water to flush the toilets.
"Out West, in an area where water usage and water rights dominate the headlines, we’re stepping up and trying to help with the problem,” says Matt Robitaille, Starbucks construction program manager who helped design, build and install the system.
For more than a year, Becca Rollins, store manager in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has used a reusable cup every day at her store. She knits reusable-cup cozies for her store partners and regular customers, and encourages a back-of-house competition for each partner to track their reusable cup use. Last fall, she even presented a letter to regular customers Russ and Sally, a retired couple who bring their own cups and silverware every time they visit, for being sustainable customers. She estimates they’ve saved 1,500 single-use items from the landfill. She’s also an advocate in her district for the Grounds For Your Garden program.
"About a year ago, I started taking some things a little more seriously as far as imprint and making planet-positive decisions,” Rollins says. “It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in this world by everything that goes on. Just focus on the most good that you can do. It matters.”
Greener Store practices have helped Starbucks save almost $60 million in annual operating costs in the U.S., including 30 percent water savings and 25 percent energy reduction when compared to historic store practices. These include efforts such as retrofitting store lighting to LEDs; installing more energy-efficient appliances like Advansys dishwashers and ENERGY STAR certified batch-type ice makers; and standardizing energy-use schedules and heating/cooling temperatures.
Despite challenges to implementation, such as differing rules and availability in each city and town, Starbucks recycles in more than 8,000 company-operated stores across the U.S. More than 3,000 have both recycling and compost services. In Greener Stores, the goal is to align the different rules around waste in each municipality with the workflow and best practices inside each store. That means clear signage around what items go in what bin; the use of an internal Recycling App that sets clear expectations around what things are picked up and when; and locating waste receptables where they can be most efficient – for example, putting a compost bin next to the warming ovens to catch all the parchment paper used to heat up food.
Being smart and efficient about waste can help Starbucks direct less waste to landfills, says Pete Schultze, a district manager in the San Francisco Bay Area who has five Greener Stores in his portfolio. “Taking care of the environment and sustainability, it’s important to our partners,” he says.
Greener Stores feature a number of renewable energy projects such as EV charging and onsite solar that help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and improve local air quality.
Starbucks Greener Stores limit the use of volatile organic compounds, such as paints, coating, adhesives and sealants that can be harmful for the environment and degrade air quality. Other requirements mean mercury-free lighting installed in stores, which increases light quality and also helps eliminate harmful materials that could end up in landfills.
Starbucks is also starting work on an Embodied Carbon Initiative, which will measure, track and assess the lifetime carbon emissions necessary to build, transport and eventually dispose of all its equipment and building materials. The goal, says Jodie Clarke, senior project manager in Global Store Development, is to create new standards, influence more earth friendly practices throughout the supply chain and educate suppliers through a Starbucks Global Academy sustainability course, that recently received positive recognition from the Biden administration.
Sites and Communities
One of the newly-certified international Greener Stores – in Antigua, Guatemala – is located inside a preserved and restored UNESCO World Heritage site. The historic, courtyard-style building uses local art, local furniture and local materials.
"We refurbished what was already there. We didn’t pour new concrete. We didn’t buy new steel,” says Erica Saraff, senior project manager, Global Store Development-Sustainability. “It’s open-air, so no HVAC system, which is a huge source of electricity use. Using local supplies also means savings on transportation costs.”
"Everything that we've built into a Greener Store is a little step," Saraff says. "When you're talking about one dishwasher, or one recycling bin, or one light fixture, that's small. But we have thousands of stores, and all those small things that you do - as a partner, as a customer - make an impact because of our scale.
"If we're all doing something better, it becomes a much bigger better."