Starbucks Looks Eco-Friendly

Starbucks Brainstorms Sustainable Alternatives

Students across the world will be able to experience the joys of drinking their preferred beverage in a more environmentally friendly cup starting this Fall.

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In Austin, the city prides itself on its progressive attitude towards more sustainable living. The University of Texas at Austin continues this eco-friendly spirit by tackling the amount of food waste created in the dining halls to the bins divided into three parts for trash, recycling, and compost materials.

This is why it's so exciting to hear about Starbucks future plans to have customers use a cup that's 100% recyclable. Hundreds of students at UT stop by local Starbucks on and around campus on a daily basis.

However, students aren't able to recycle these hot beverage cups as easily as others because of the thin layer of plastic coating on the inside.

As of July, "Starbucks announced a $10 million commitment to work with the rest of the industry and bring a fully recyclable and compostable cup to the market within three years," said Coral Garnick from Puget Sound Business Journal.

It's quick to think, 'why don't they just take out the plastic," but if it were that easy there wouldn't be "4 million Starbucks paper cups ending up in landfills every year," according to Stand.earth.

Starbucks had been trying to create a fully recyclable cup back in 2008 by holding "cup summits" that bring in fresh, innovative, and plausible ideas until 2013.

Now, The coffee corporation that held 27,339 stores worldwide in 2017 has begun creating a straw-less lid for select cold drinks and are currently testing paper and plant made straws that will only be provided upon request.

These new lids are already making their first appearances in 8,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada; they won't be fully standardized until later this Fall starting in Seattle and Vancouver.

Although nobody knows how long it will take for Starbucks newly sustainable alternatives to reach Austin, it's something to look forward to as UT itself continues to strive for the goals of its own clean environment initiatives.

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5 Companies That Still Use Slave Labor

Let's talk about the modern slave trade.
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Growing up in a country where freedom is always a right and expectation — whether you live in the United States or one of the other 86 "free" countries — it is easy to believe that, compared to the well-known 1800s slave trade, we are doing pretty well when it comes to civil liberties, freedom, and overall social welfare. Documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) have been approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations, meaning that the vast majority of nations have agreed that every individual has the right to basic human dignity.

Despite this significant progress, however, there are 45.8 million people enslaved today, more than any other time in world history. The United States Department of Homeland Security has launched the Blue Campaign in light of this growing industry, hoping to raise awareness of the human trafficking that persists in local communities. Additionally, you can watch this video for a summary on the Global Slavery pandemic. I will write about the problem of human trafficking in the United States on another day; however, global slavery affects us whether it is in our city or halfway around the world. In fact, companies that you purchase from every single day use slave labor for their work instead of paying employees a fair wage.* Don't believe me?

Here are five companies that are using slave labor to make their products TODAY, and where you should shop instead.

Nestle

Nestle is one of the largest companies that has consistently carried out human rights violations all over the world. Not only did they illegally take water from California during the drought in 2015, but in the 1970s they got third-world mothers to use infant formula by selling it at reduced prices, and then when the mothers could no longer breastfeed, they raised the price of formula so much that many children were malnourished and starving.

Their most recent problems revolve around slavery in the cocoa industry. In 2009 several former child slaves sued Nestle because they were trafficked and forced to work on Nestle farms in Cote d'Ivoire. Another suit was filed by former child slaves in 2014, stating that "Studies by International Labour Organization, UNICEF, the Department of State, and numerous other organizations have confirmed that thousands of children are forced to work without pay in the Ivorian economy." In 2016, the Fair Labor Association executed an assessment of Nestle in Cote d'Ivoire. They claimed that 70% of Nestle farms were not trained on the prohibition of forced labor. Further, they stated that "there is no process in place to monitor, report, and remediate cases of forced labor at the farms." With this in mind, they did find evidence of potential forced and uncompensated labor. Additionally, they found evidence of child labor—many of these children never enrolling in school — in which children were getting paid little to nothing, and often working in dangerous conditions.

INSTEAD: buy from Ben & Jerry's or Theo. They will satisfy your sweet tooth and are Fair-Trade guaranteed.

Nike

Nike has REALLY cleaned up their act in the last several years, but with a standard of no slave labor, they still have quite a way to go. In 1992, activist Jeff Ballinger published an exposé in "Harpers" that revealed the story of a child in Indonesia working in disgusting conditions, and for a mere 14 cents per hour (far below the minimum wage in Indonesia at the time).

Since then, Nike has begun to report supply chain information. The most recent report claims that, in 2016, only 86% of their factories were up to the minimum standards they set. Though they give a good indication of how far the company has come, these standards are set by Nike and assessed internally, making it difficult to compare standards to a universal one.

INSTEAD: shop at Patagonia! All products here are Fair Trade Certified!

Starbucks

Starbucks claims a mission for ethical sourcing, meaning their company policy requires them to abide by a standard of "ethical sourcing" that they have created. They only have two Fair-Trade coffees available for purchase. After the development charity Oxfam reported that Starbucks was depriving Ethiopian coffee growers of $90 million every year, Starbucks was challenged by the public eye to “clean up their act,” and did so by creating their own “ethical sourcing” standards, that they implement themselves, and certify 99% of their coffee with. Whether or not these standards are viable, they are not Fair Trade Certified at this time.

The U.S. Department of Labor has a list of locations and goods that use forced and child labor. Starbucks lists coffees from countries such as Guatamala, Kenya, Costa Rica and Panama; however, none of these single-sourced coffees are certified by them as “Fair Trade.” Rather, they are all regions that are known to use child labor.

INSTEAD: buy the Starbucks Italian Roast and Café Estima; they are certified by Fair Trade! You can also order online from Café Justo, Jurang and Equal Exchange —entire companies dedicated to producing Fair Trade coffee.

H&M

A 2016 report stated that as of December 31, 2015, 31 out of 72 H&M suppliers were using illegal contracts. In other words, these contracts allowed for wrongful termination. Now I know what you are thinking: the current system of hiring/firing in the U.S. is full of problems, and it takes way too much work to fire a bad employee in most cases. Well, the situation in countries like Cambodia and India are a little different. Often times, employees of H&M will be forced to work for excessive overtime hours—far beyond the legal limit—with no increase in their weekly take home pay. They are also often working in sweatshop conditions, with no breaks and unsanitary environments. Moreover, the contracts allow the factory to fire a worker for refusing to work these long hours. In fact, a garment worker in Cambodia stated: "We often get sick around once a month. We don’t eat enough and work too much trying to maximize the piece rate. Also, we don’t stop to go to the bathroom. We often work through lunch breaks or go back into work early, so there is hardly any time to rest."

INSTEAD: shop at one of these other retailers that are guaranteed to have fair-trade labor!

Walmart

Well, this one is probably the least suprising yet. According to a 2016 report by the Wage Alliance on Walmart's value chain, Walmart refused to sign the 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh that 200 companies signed following the collapse of Rana Plaza. It also stated that all 14 factories in Cambodia were studied, and they all violated local overtime laws consistently, with some forcing 14 hour work days without overtime pay "in sweltering heat, without adequate supply of clean drinking water or any breaks." These same conditions were expressed by workers in factories in India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. The report continued to list countless instances of workers given severely less than they were promised, or even cases where owners of factories fled without paying workers at all.

INSTEAD: OK, I know it's hard to pass up Walmart prices. However, here is a full list of companies that are fair trade. Even if you start small, I know you can find a way to cut back on your slavery footprint! Want to know how many slaves work for you now? Visit the Slavery Footprint mission to find out.

*I use the term “fair wage” because many people who are enslaved are trapped in a cycle of debt bondage. This means that an individual or family works for pennies per hour to pay off an ever-increasing debt. Oftentimes this debt is passed down for generations. To learn more about debt bondage and other forms of slavery, visit the non-profit End Slavery Now, here.

Cover Image Credit: iragelb / Flickr

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14 Adorable Products To Buy That Support Good Causes

Why buy boring old toilet paper when you could buy some that goes towards installing toilets in impoverished areas? (Yes, this exists. Stay tuned.)

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Online shopping is no rarity in this day and age. Nearly everyone has once been guilty of adding item after item to their shopping cart then realizes their grand total is pretty much twice the amount you set out to spend. This is maybe not the best of situations to be in, I must admit...

However, if you have an issue with overspending online then you might as well put that money towards a good cause. So, next time you have that itch to online shop, head in the direction of one of these charitable brands and products. Treat yourself to a cute bracelet or fresh coffee beans or even some toilet paper while also supporting a cause attempting to make the world a better place.

If you happen to have that online shopping itch RIGHT NOW then click the links provided beneath each individual product or brand's photo.

1. Who Gives A Crap toilet paper

Who Gives A Crap

Who Gives A Crap is a toilet paper company that fills online orders. Their toilet paper 100% recycled and made WITHOUT trees. Also, 50% of its profits are donated to build functioning toilets and waste systems in areas that do not have them.

Their most recent monetary donation towards this cause was $46,000.

2. 4 Ocean bracelets

4 Ocean

4 Ocean is another charitable company that produces bracelets in efforts to end the ocean plastic crisis. Each of their bracelets is made from recycled materials, and with the purchase of one of these bracelets one pound of trash is removed from the world's oceans. Also, each individual bracelet often supports a different charitable cause as well as removing this pound of waste. The bracelet I have from this company went towards supporting Coral Restoration Foundation for example.

To date, 4 Ocean has removed 4,509,249 pounds of waste from the world's largest water sources.

3. Pura Vida bracelets

Pura Vida

Pura Vida is probably one of the most well-known brands on this list. The company was founded in 2010 in Costa Rica and was met with extreme popularity. Pura Vida makes and sells jewelry (primarily bracelets) in order to support and employ artisans worldwide. The company also carries special charity collections of bracelets in which the proceeds directly go towards causes such as suicide prevention, breast cancer awareness, Parkinson's disease, and sexual assault awareness.

4. Black Rifle Coffee Company coffee and apparel

Black Rifle Coffee Company

This company is owned and run by veterans. BRCC not only encourages patriotism, but also gives a portion of its proceeds to charitable causes for U.S. veterans, law enforcement, fire departments, and first responders.

5. United By Blue apparel and accessories

United By Blue

All of United By Blue's clothing sales go towards cleaning up the world's bodies of water. For every product they sell, the company removes 1 pound of waste from oceans, creeks, rivers, beaches, streams, any body of water. On top of all of this, United By Blue also organizes waste cleanup that the company as well as it followers can participate in.

They have currently removed 1,756,888 pounds of waste.

6. Yuhme water bottles

Yuhme

Yuhme is a company that produces and sells reusable water bottles made from sugarcane. With the sale of each singular bottle, 6 months of clean drinking water is provided to people in the Central African Republic. The company partners with the organization Water For Good, which is a organization geared specifically towards providing the Central African Republic with drinking water and bringing their community together as a whole.

Yuhme has now donated 44,148 months of drinking water, avoided 1,800,796 km worth of driving emissions, and have avoided sending 15,698,328 plastic bottles to landfills.

7. S'well water bottles

S'well

S'well is popular brand that was actually endorsed by Oprah Winfrey at one point. The water bottles are stainless steel and double-walled, designed to keep your water cold for a long time while also seeking to eliminate the waste of plastic bottles. S'well currently is in the midst of their "Million Bottle Project" which aims to eliminate 100 million plastic water bottles from the Earth's landfills and waterways by next year. By buying one of their bottles, you are not only lessening your own personal amount of waste but also aiding this project.

8. Pawz apparel

Pawz

Paws is a clothing company that donates 10% of its profits animal shelters across the United States. They also use their public platform to support and endorse no-kill shelters and bring awareness to the abuse and euthanization of innocent animals.

9. Ivory Ella apparel

Ivory Ella

Ivory Ella is a brand and online store that is affiliated with the association Save the Elephants. The company was started in order to combat the ivory trade and the abuse of elephants. The brand's clothing line donates a portion of all of its proceeds to Save the Elephants, which fights for the conservation and protection of wild elephants.

10. Pela cases

Pela Case

I'm sure a lot of you have seen these eco-friendly cases advertised on your Instagram feeds. The phone cases are not only compostable and prevent the waste of plastic phone cases in landfills, but their sale also goes to help the organization 1% for the Planet. Pela also currently carries specific lines of cases that are geared towards helping our oceans by assisting charity organizations such as Save The Waves and the Surfrider Foundation. Also, these cases are adorable and very durable. I have one, and they do a great job of protecting your phone.

11. LUSH lotion

LUSH

LUSH is not only cruelty-free, but it also all natural ingredients in their products. The company's Sustainable Lush Fund projects work to support regenerative agriculture worldwide. LUSH, overall, is very well-known for its cosmetics packaged is 100% recyclable materials, but there is one product in particular at the moment that assists a charitable cause: Charity Pot lotion. 100% of the profits made on this lotion are donated to grassroots organizations working for environmental conservation and awareness, animal welfare, as well as human rights.

12. Love Your Melon hats

Love Your Melon

Love Your Melon was started with the goal of putting a hat on every child's hat that was battling cancer. The company donates 50% of the profits from its hats (and other assorted clothing accessories) to the Love Your Melon Fund that assists their non-profit partners is fighting pediatric cancer.

13. BeYOUtiful apparel

BeYOUtiful Foundation

BeYOUtiful Foundation is a non-profit organization that helps connect breast cancer survivors to salons and hair stylists in efforts to make women feel beautiful all throughout these hard times in their lives. All profits from their line of apparel go towards the organization's efforts.

14. TOMS shoes

TOMS

TOMS is a well-known company that was founded in 2006 as a result of the company's founder witnessing the hardships of children growing up without shoes. So, for every pair of shoes TOMS sells, the company gives a pair of shoes to a child in need. However, the company has now branched out to the sale of eyewear which assists in giving children in need prescription glasses, the sale of coffee which helps in the distribution of clean drinking water, as well as the sale of bags which supports the continuation of safe birthing services.

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