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This Major Coffee Chain Is Now Letting You Rent To-Go Cups

With the Borrow a Cup program, you can replace up to 30 disposable cups...and earn rewards.

When it comes to caring for our planet, small individual changes can lead to great collective impact. If your daily coffee habit has ever made you feel a twinge of guilt about how many empty cups you've tossed in the trash over time, this news might be a relief: One of the world's most-loved coffee brands is helping us help the Earth with a new "Borrow a Cup" program. Now you can order your beverage in a safe, reusable cup and earn rewards for your coffee.

Starbucks is known for their eco-conscious efforts, which is definitely positive considering how many disposable cups the chain has served since they took the brand beyond Seattle starting in the mid-1980s. Now CNN Business reports that starting this week in select Seattle locations, Starbucks is testing their "Borrow a Cup" program. Borrow a Cup allows customers to pay just a dollar for a plastic cup that can hold up to a Venti-sized beverage. After the last sip is finished, customers can return the cup—then within 24 hours, their dollar deposit, along with 10 Starbucks Bonus Stars, will appear in their Starbucks Rewards account. (It takes 150 Starbucks points to earn a free drink, so participating in the Borrow a Cup program over, say, three work weeks would get you there.)

Starbucks Borrow a Cup
Courtesy of Starbucks

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A lot of companies based in the Pacific Northwest are known for their commitment to the environment, and Starbucks has long made earth-friendly innovation a serious focus to help customers reduce waste while still delivering our caffeine fix. Their "bring-you-own cup" initiative, while brilliant in theory, had to be canceled last year when COVID-19 began to spread. For many Starbucks loyalists, it's encouraging to see how fast the company worked to find a different way to meet that desire among consumers. If you're committed to making the Borrow a Cup logistics work, it's worth it: USA Today reports that one reusable cup can replace up to 30 disposable paper or plastic cups. 

The coffee caveats: in addition to being available in very limited locations for now, there are a few other notes Starbucks wants you to know about the Borrow a Cup program. Currently, it's set to run through May 31 (customers can return their cup through June 14), and the $1 deposit fee itself is not eligible for Star Rewards. But this part's cool: Some Seattle customers have the option for a company called Ridwell to collect the used cups straight from their homes, and cups will be professionally cleaned and sanitized.

Gotta have that morning fix, but want to stay kind to the Earth? Check out the one hack everyone is trying with their coffee grounds. Get the food news you need each day by signing up for the Eat This, Not That! newsletter.

Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more about Krissy
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