Throughout the month of April, Starbucks is giving Starbucks Rewards members a chance to win a year’s worth of non-dairy beverages through its new Starbucks Earth Month Game. The game supports Starbucks’ Plant Positive initiative, a sustainability plan to cut its carbon, water, and waste footprints by half by 2030. A recent audit showed that dairy is the number one driver of Starbucks’ global carbon footprint and the chain has chosen to focus the game on giving away non-dairy beverages, and other eco-friendly items, to promote more sustainable options. “Our Planet Positive initiatives have a central role in our long-term business strategy, and directly address what our customers are asking for,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said. “We are moving toward a more circular economy, and we are doing so in a very intentional, transparent, and accountable way.”

The game features an instant win “Choice & Chance” portion where members can win a variety of prizes such as stars, coupons for non-dairy beverages, discounts on select food options, and reusable merchandise. Members can earn “plays” by making eligible transactions at participating stores (limit two plays per day). Additional plays can be earned by participating in weekly activities throughout the month of April such as refusing single-use plastic straws, sampling meatless breakfast choices, voting for their favorite non-dairy beverage, or reading articles about combating food waste. The game also features a “Play & Plant” portion where players complete puzzles and vote for one of four One Tree Planted reforestation efforts, the winner of which Starbucks will support with a donation to plant 250,000 trees.

Dairy-free at Starbucks

In recent years, Starbucks has modernized its menu with a variety of dairy-free milk options, including soy, almond, and coconut. In March, the chain added Oatly’s oat milk as its fourth vegan milk to its nationwide menu—which it highlights in a new Iced Brown Sugar Shaken Oatmilk Espresso (a combination of  brown sugar and cinnamon, that is topped off with oat milk). The new oat milk has proven so popular that Starbucks reported a temporary shortage of the dairy-free milk earlier this month. Last summer, Starbucks also launched almond milk-based cold foam, which can be ordered in a variety of beverages.

On the food side, Starbucks added its first plant-based meat option, the Impossible Breakfast Sandwich, to its menu last June. This sandwich, made with a plant-based Impossible Sausage patty, cannot be ordered vegan as it is not made-to-order and contains animal-derived components such as cheese and eggs. However, the chain began testing a fully vegan Plant Powered Breakfast Sandwich (which features a plant-based meat patty, dairy-free cheese, and mung bean-based eggs) at one location in Issaquah, WA before expanding it to select Dallas, TX locations earlier this year. In March, Starbucks also added its first fully vegan protein box to most of its United States locations. The Chickpea Bites & Avocado Protein Box is filled with chickpea bites (nuggets made with chickpeas), snap peas, mini carrots, dried cranberry nut mix, and an avocado spread.  

While Starbucks is improving its vegan options, many activists have demanded that it drop its surcharge for substituting vegan milk in place of dairy. Earlier this week, actress Alicia Silverstone wrote a letter to Starbucks explaining that charging extra for plant-based milk is a move that discourages customers to make environmentally friendly choices. “If Starbucks hopes to meet its goal of reducing 50 percent of its carbon emissions, water use, and waste by 2030, then an obvious first step is to ensure that the environmentally friendly options are accessible to everyone by lowering the price of their non-dairy options, and not penalizing those of us who are already choosing the sustainable, kind products,” Silverstone, a long time vegan, said. 

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