Starbucks' Red Cup Day Is Back For Another Eco-Friendly Holiday Season

Starbucks is bringing back its annual Red Cup Day on Thursday, November 16. The corporate tradition seeks to kick off the holiday season with a free reusable coffee cup for qualifying purchases. For its sixth year, Red Cup Day will feature limited edition cups that are a part of the coffee chain's waste reduction goals — which seek to eliminate half of the trash it produces by 2030. This year's cups are made from more recycled content than in years past. Last year, they were produced from 50% recycled material; this year, that has increased to 75%.

However, not every drink will qualify for a free cup, so don't expect to get one if all you order is a black coffee. Instead, you'll have to choose from a specific list of holiday-themed drinks, including Peppermint White Hot Chocolate, Pumpkin Cream Chai Tea Latte, Iced Apple Crisp Oatmilk Shaken Espresso, Chestnut Praline Latte, and the like. This offer is also limited to participating retailers.

Red cups for waste reduction

The coffee giant hopes that customers will return the cup on future visits. You'll get a whopping 10 cents off your next drink purchase if you do (or if you bring in any reusable cup). And there are 25 bonus Stars available to Starbucks Rewards members who reuse their cups on subsequent visits. Anyone who places an order in person, on the Starbucks app, or using Starbucks Delivers will receive a free reusable red cup. Earlier this year, Starbucks also began testing its reusable cup program in specific markets, which it anticipates will also help reach its waste reduction goal.

As celebrated as it may be, Red Cup Day doesn't come without controversy. For the second year, unionized Starbucks workers plan to strike for Red Cup Day to fight for higher wages and better staffing. The holiday season and promotional days like this are particularly challenging for workers who must tackle an onslaught of customers at the counter, drive-thru, and mobile ordering.