A concerned group of students are staying cool on the coming Starbucks store announced to open at the University of Victoria in 2019.
In recent years the global chain, once popular for its outlandishly-named hot beverages (anyone for a tall, non-fat latte with caramel drizzle?), has become a lightning rod for criticism for its excessive packaging and corporate, non-local products.
The latter arguments are at the heart of a student-driven response to keep Starbucks out of the UVic campus. UVic announced on Nov. 5 it has purchased a Starbucks license and plans to replace the long-running Finnerty Express coffee shop by the UVic Bookstore with a Starbucks by the fall of 2019.
Organizers behind the Stop Starbucks at UVic petition have gained 1,900 signatories but it’s an open conversation, with some around campus saying they’re open to the iconic coffee retailer. Rather, it’s the fact Finnerty Express has long supplied local products such as Salt Spring Coffee, and local bakeries, to UVic students. It’s also Starbucks’ lack of sustainability practises, said petition co-organizer Sydney Welsh, a UVic biology student.
“We are not anti-corporation, not anti-UVic, and we are not opposed to people buying Starbucks,” Welsh said. “What we are about is holding UVic accountable to the decisions they make in relation to their own policies.”
Starbucks use of plastic “packaging, upon packaging, upon packaging” on its food products and the amount of waste the store creates on a daily basis, be it paper cups, plastic lids, and plastic wrapping, is unnecessary, Welsh said.
“It’s also a matter of food waste, as a lot of the food is also thrown out if it isn’t purchased on time,” she added. “A large majority of it is not local, it’s brought in from U.S.A., where as Finnerty’s is local products. Even their milk is not locally sourced.”
On the other hand, there have been countless requests for a Starbucks or Tim Hortons by campus guests visiting CARSA, the CARSA turfs, as well as conference and event attendees, and even parents of students.
It follows a trend as the University of B.C. now has three Starbucks. Simon Fraser has two Starbucks and, as of last year, Vancouver Island University also has one (which was so busy it had to add staff immediately after opening).
All have returned positive feedback regarding an enhanced student experience, Forbes said.
The director of campus services also said UVic is committed to transitioning Salt Spring Coffee and local bakery products to other retail locations on campus, with hopes of actually increasing their sales volume and availability by placing them in multiple locations.
“The majority of on-campus retail food and beverage outlets will remain independently created brands and represent more than 85 per cent of revenue,” Forbes said.
All of Finnerty’s currently unionized employees will have the opportunity to transfer.
For those concerned, Welsh says there will be another meeting coming up where all opinions are welcome, not just those steadfast against a Starbucks.
“We’ve also heard from people who say they would like a Starbucks but there is a lot of concern,” Welsh said.
Local to UVic are two Starbucks at University Heights and Tuscany Village, as well as one in Cadboro Bay.
Starbucks corporation did not respond to a request for interview.