Starbucks “Day of Discussion” chock full o’ passion

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“Shaken blueberry-white iced-tea?” asked a young woman with
green apron and pleasant smile as she extended her hand to present me with a
small disposable plastic cup. Starbucks was hosting a “Day of Discussion”
addressing “Solutions to Climate Change.” I accepted the refreshing tea, bit my tongue at the irony of the
environmentally-unfriendly vessel it came in, and focused on the value of the
event to occur that evening.

Image courtesy of www.starbucks.com

Mexico_shade_grown_coffee_3
By the time the activities commenced at 6pm, a group of
about 20 folks had gathered. To get us ready for deep discussion after a full
day at the office, we began with a “coffee tasting.” This time, Starbucks
impressed me by serving coffee of the Organic Shade Grown Mexico variety served in
miniature—reusable—mugs, along with some delicious crumb cake that tasted like
a leavened orange creamsicle. As I slurped amidst instructions to “experience
the nutty undertones” (my fellow intern Veena and I agreed the ‘notes’ were
more ‘coffee- bean-y’), I was largely unaware that the iced-tea/plastic,
shade-grown/ceramic paradox would be emblematic of the discussion to ensue.

The topic for the forum was “individual action,” a
brainstorming session of steps each person
can take to reduce their energy consumption and personal share of the carbon
footprint.

Though our cheery moderator from the Cool Capital Challenge encouraged a positive attitude with phrases like “No defeatism or fatalism!” and
“Today we’re adopting an American, can-do approach,” many were quick to hop on political soapboxes. The first to speak challenged Veena
and I to clarify National Geographic’s position on climate change. Another
argued for nuclear power and told of the program “No Kidding,” which would
compensate Americans who chose not to procreate.

Others offered some useful tips and insights. An energy
consultant advocated for replacing incandescent light bulbs with fluorescents,
and opening windows in the spring and fall rather than relying on air
conditioning. Almost all agreed to the benefits of public transportation and
praised Washington DC’s metro system.

The discussion comments ran the gamut from incredibly
passionate, and occasionally misdirected, to practical and mindful. I realized
that the conversation in many instances reflected both an honest attempt to
reconcile conflicting information and a genuine lack of knowledge about the
environmental issues.

Toward the end of the evening a critical question was posed:
“What can we do to inspire young people to take action?” As all heads literally
turned to me and Veena (the only people in the room under thirty), I responded
in the true spirit of a My Wonderful World geography intern: “Education. Kids
need to learn the science and importance of the world around them to become conscious,
engaged adults.”

So thank you Starbucks and partners Earthwatch Institute,
the Climate Group, Earth Day Network, Global Green USA, Conservation
International and especially the Cool Capital Challenge for hosting this
illuminating “Day of Discussion.” As the last hours of sunlight faded, I walked
out of the café with a free book, (John and Teresa Heinz Kerry’s This Moment on Earth) tickets to Arctic Tale some great energy saving
tips
and my belief in the power of education and global knowledge
reaffirmed.

Earthlight_2

To learn more about these issues check out green.nationalgeographic.com, www.grist.org (one of my all-time favorites),
www.realclimate.org, www.coolcapitalchallenge.org,
www.theclimategroup.org, www.treehugger.com, www.conservation.org,
www.earthday.net, www.earthwatch.org, www.globalgreen.org, and don’t forget to
go see Arctic Tale!

If you attended the “Day of Discussion” at a Starbucks store
near you, we want to hear about it! What kinds of personal action steps did you
talk about?

Sarah, My Wonderful World intern

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