Starbucks opens in Yosemite, to the dismay of thousands

Yosemite Starbucks
© Starbucks

As usual, consumption wins out over conservation.

The first Starbucks in Yosemite National Park opened last week, despite the 25,000 people who petitioned to stop it. It's an inconspicuous location, with a purposeful lack of signage on the outside, but operating as usual inside, where "the green apron-clad barista makes tall, grande and venti coffee concoctions that are handed over in familiar mermaid-endowed cups."

Starbucks' arrival in Yosemite is part of a major effort to renovate and update the national park. Concessions and facilities firm Aramark was given a 15-year, $2-billion contract to "elevate the food and beverages offerings throughout the park," as spokesman David Freirich told The Guardian, and Starbucks was selected based on requests from visitors.

Former trail guide Freddy Brewster started the petition against Starbucks. He feels that the chain belongs in a busy, bustling city, not the nation's most famous natural space, and that there is something questionable about investing in projects that fuel consumption, rather than conservation. He told the Guardian:

"[This] is representative of what our culture is becoming. The government is increasingly dependent on major corporations. Time and time again."

Brewster is right to be concerned about consumption, particularly the physical aftermath of it. Starbucks is notorious for generating vast quantities of waste -- approximately 4 billion coffee cups per year -- that are not recyclable. The company has failed to prioritize the development of a fully recyclable cup, despite repeated promises to do so over the past decade. (They promised it again last week, so we'll see if it happens. Public pressure is certainly stronger now than ever.)

Yosemite Starbucks interior© Starbucks -- The company describes its newest LEED-certified building as a "hidden gem" in the park, but the environmental standards clearly haven't spilled over to their drinks packaging. That's a whole lot of single-use plastic.

I share Brewster's view that Starbucks is out of place in the national park. If only the offer had been made to a local coffee vendor, or at least one that promised to uphold impressive environmental standards, such as reusable cups only or zero waste output. Had that stipulation been placed on Starbucks prior to the opening of its new location, that might have spurred the company to the action they have been unmotivated to take all these years.

In the meantime, I'll be making my own coffee, which is one of my favorite things to do when hiking. My husband fires up the camp stove, while I fill the moka pot with pre-ground coffee. It bubbles up in no time and we pour it into travel mugs. Then we sit on a stump or rock and take in the beautiful surroundings, as the aroma of delicious coffee wafts to our noses and the mugs warm our hands. It beats any overpriced Starbucks drink.

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