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Linkedin Brouhaha Caused by Cup Washing Machine

Daniel Velez
Daniel Velez
1 min read

I posted the video below on LinkedIn and it caused a virtual brouhaha.

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People were up in arms because the device used lots of water. Many were concerned about its energy use. Others proposed a life cycle assessment. Some screamed, "Footprint!"

Never invite an environmentalist to a party - they're no fun. We love to go straight to the negatives without acknowledging the positives. These people failed to realize that the world's largest coffee company was testing a reusable system. It's not perfect; no test is.

I find it cumbersome but, I wanted to applaud this effort before criticizing it (which I'll do now).  

I bought a ceramic coffee tumbler because I wanted to reheat my coffee cup at work. My ceramic cup gets too hot when it leaves the machine. So hot that the barista puts a cardboard sleeve around it before handing it back. I'm trying to reduce my waste footprint so the sleeve annoys me.

They don't wash the lid. I wash the lid in my breakroom every day. I also wash my cup (because, why not?).

Each Starbucks on all four ASU campuses does a reuse competition. Whoever gets the highest percentage of students bringing reusable cups gets bragging rights. This competitive spirit propels the barista to wash my cup. They don't ask if it's clean, they direct me to wash it. Maybe this is a compliance thing - I haven't asked.

But it looks like CYA (cover your ass) metrics to me. Management sets a new goal and employees reach that goal by any means possible - even if it's devaluing the spirit of the goal. Washing clean cups isn't in the spirit of reuse. It's in the spirit of, I did what you said. Imagine a call center manager setting a new goal to close tickets faster. Employees will close tickets faster but, they will also close more unresolved tickets.

Version 1 of the cleaning machine has some work to do (that's what it's for). I look forward to version 2.


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Daniel is building the future of reuse. His last venture, Growly Delivers, delivered local beer in returnable high-tech growlers. What will he do next?

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