February 17 marked the first day that Starbucks started offering coconut milk as a non-dairy alternative to their customers across the U.S. They already offer soy milk and many believe that coconut milk is even better for you than soy, so it seems like a dream come true to those with dairy allergies or who follow a plant-based diet. Starbucks has made it a bit easier to be dairy-free and enjoy a latte still, but there are a few things we should know about their new coconut milk option:
It has a lot of ingredients
It’s not simply coconut milk. The ingredients = water, coconut cream, cane sugar, tricalcium phosphate, coconut water concentrate, natural flavors, sea salt, carrageenan, gellan gum, corn dextrin, xanthan gum, guar gum, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D2. There are plenty of coconut milks that contain coconut milk and water at most.
It’s not the best for the environment
Starbucks’ coconut milk comes all the way from Indonesia. That means it’s taking a lot of gas to transport millions of gallons of coconut milk. In general, we get coconuts from far away, so it’s not a problem exclusive to Starbucks, but is one that deserves our attention.
It’s harvested unsustainably
There is a growing demand for coconut products, so trees are being planted in abundance, in non-native climates, to keep up with our demand. It has been said that these non-native trees push away local wildlife and diminish the quality of soil nutrients. In addition, some native areas with coconut trees have been destroyed because of overharvesting. Starbucks inclusion of coconut milk will no doubt drive up the demand for something that is already contributing to deforestation.
It’s not organic
The decision by Starbucks to use coconut that is not organic may impact or health and environment, if only in an indirect way. While some studies have claimed there isn’t a need for coconuts to be organic, we need to consider that coconut trees can carry diseases and bugs which would mean that chemical fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides would be used in the growing process. If they don’t end up in the milk itself, they can make their way into water sources and soil in the area.
It’s not fair trade
The fact that Starbucks coconut milk does not have a Fair Trade Certified label and is “Single Origin” points to the likelihood that is produced in one large factory in Sumatra. Large-scale farming is connected with cheap labor. It would be ideal if Starbucks went completely fair-trade.
After knowing all of this, you may still want to try a latte with coconut milk, and that’s fine. But, if you believe this is a healthier, organic, sustainable alternative, you’ll be better off with the ingredient list in mind.