After a disappointing experience at Starbucks, actress Alicia Silverstone took to Twitter to express her frustration about the coffee chain's sustainability practices — and the way it prices non-dairy drinks.
"Depressing! Just brought my reusable mug to @Starbucks &saw staff use a disposable cup, pour it into my mug, then toss the disposable cup," she wrote on Tuesday. "Totally defeats the purpose of trying 2 reduce waste! Then I looked around to see so many people sitting @ the cafe all w disposables! Ugh."
Many tweeters quickly replied to Silverstone's tweet with their own experiences of bringing a reusable cup to Starbucks.
When asked about its drink-making practices, a representative for the chain told TODAY Food that "Starbucks baristas are encouraged to craft beverages directly into a cup whenever possible, building on our long-term commitment to sustainability and customer experiences."
While the rep would not comment specifically on what Silverstone reportedly saw, they added,"We will take this opportunity to review guidance to our partners about personal cup use as we continue to be mindful of waste."
Starbucks sells several different reusable cups, mugs and thermoses at most stores. It also currently gives customers a discount (usually about 10 cents off any drink order) for using those reusable options. The chain is also working to make disposable drinking vessels more eco-friendly. Last year, the chain partnered with Closed Loop Partners in a global effort to "identify and commercialize the next generation of recyclable and/or compostable cup solutions."
The brand also says that it is a "leading national retailer" in advocating for increased recycling programs. Other sustainability initiatives include reducing and eventually eliminating plastic straws in its stores.
Silverstone, a vegan and outspoken animal rights' activist, also asked why alternative milks still cost more than the standard dairy option.
"I'm always frustrated by the extra charges for non-dairy milk," she wrote in a second Tweet. "Y should we be penalized 4 making the eco-choice? It would be amazing for @Starbucks to lead the way &consider enviro externalities associated w the dairy industry by having dairy cost + or at least = plantmilk fees."
The tweet was met with support from those who said that, like Silverstone, they followed vegan diets. Others who abstain from dairy for different reasons have called out the chain for this practice, too.
Still, many pointed to the fact that while some non-dairy milks may ultimately be better for the environment, many are still a lot more expensive and at the end of the day Starbucks is a business.
Starbucks would not confirm to TODAY whether it pays significantly more for its non-dairy milk supply but explained that the surcharge is not just applied to alternative milk options (like almond milk or coconut milk), but that it's also added to any drink that deviates from the original recipe baristas are supposed to follow.
"Adding a splash of alternative milk to brewed coffee, iced coffee, cold brew, or an Americano is free of charge," the spokesperson explained. "The price of all beverages is based on a standard recipe. Any customizations, like adding a flavor, a shot of espresso, or a different milk incurs a small surcharge."