Why Some Starbucks Baristas are Trading Green Aprons for Green T-Shirts in Denver


When you see trash along a walking path in a park, or along a sidewalk, do you pick it up and throw it in a garbage can? Or do you ignore it because someone else littered and it’s not your problem?

“My kids are six, four and two and they’ve learned we are all responsible for the public space,” said Albus Brooks, a Denver City Councilman. “That’s a lesson I can reinforce with them when they see Starbucks baristas in green t-shirts cleaning up our parks.”

Starbucks partners (employees) will participate in a yearly improvement project in Denver’s City Park today, which happens to be Earth Day.

Throughout the year, partners and customers volunteer in their local neighborhoods. The impact is especially noticeable during Starbucks Global Month of Service, when thousands of projects are scheduled in April around the world.

When the city of Denver, Colorado was founded in the mid-1800s it was little more than a mining camp, but even then residents were concerned about protecting trees and preserving the natural beauty of their environment. They set aside more than a thousand acres of land for parks, and one of the 300 acre areas became City Park – Denver’s version of New York’s Central Park and a space described as the “crown jewel” of the community.

While the park is understandably important to people who live in Denver, Brooks was somewhat surprised a company as large as Starbucks, and its partners, wanted to be involved with the annual park clean-up campaign. Even snow couldn't keep volunteers away from last year's event.

“To have a Fortune 500 company say we want to give back to the community has a tremendous ability to transform neighborhoods and communities,” Brooks said. “My goodness to have a company focus on the triple-p bottom line – not just profit but people and planet too – is making a difference for us.”

Many of the Global Month of Service efforts, including four separate projects in Atlanta this coming weekend, focus on environmental work.

“It’s a natural,” said Ben Coarde, regional director for Starbucks covering the Atlanta area. “Customers are concerned about the environment too and this kind of community effort gives us a great platform to build an even stronger relationship while working shoulder-to-shoulder with them.”

Starbucks and Teavana partners are teaming up with Hands on Atlanta, one of the largest community service groups in the country that works with more than 400 nonprofit organizations and schools in Greater Atlanta.

The volunteer work Saturday will bring together partners in company-operated stores, licensed stores and from Teavana locations. Teavana started in Atlanta in 1997 with the opening of the first teahouse at Lenox Square. Teavana became a part of the Starbucks family early in 2013.

“Partners are spending time together outside of their store, giving back to the communities they live in. They’re also meeting partners from other stores and there’s a real sense of fellowship as we work on these tasks,” said Bryan Small, a Starbucks facility services manager. He's also the Atlanta Chapter President for Starbucks Black Partner Network, which organized the Global Month of Service project with Teavana.

The projects give neighborhoods a boost and also energize employees, according to Councilman Brooks in Denver, who says today’s employees want more out of life than financial success alone.

“They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” Brooks said. “Companies, like Starbucks, that invite their employees to a deeper level of connection with the community will continue to lead and that’s where the most talented young people will want to work.”

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New Starbucks merch honors disability community with a message of care