link roundup for the week

Here’s an interesting video clip on how Starbucks trains customers how to behave {read: why you will be publicly shamed if you ask for a medium coffee instead of a grande coffee}.

For all the recent graduates out there: here’s 10 things your commencement speaker won’t tell you.

I loved this insightful blog post on being busy and prioritizing.

Struggling with the difference between e.g. and i.e.? Let Grammar Girl teach you!

I’m so intrigued by this story of a guy who kept a spreadsheet to track his Match.com interactions. On one hand- hilarious that he has a spreadsheet. Probably pretty stupid to send it to someone. But suing the girl who sent it out? Really? What girl wouldn’t forward something like that to her friends? Though she should have covered up the identities of the other girls… The whole things reminds of the Duke girl’s “thesis ” on her hook ups.

Another one for those of us going on vactions: loving Nutritionella’s Vacation Recovery Checklist.

And a weekly tip from The Kitchn: 4 tips for solo cooking!

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changing consumer behaviors: the dc bag tax

Photo credit

Did you know if you bring reusable bags to Trader Joe’s, you can enter their BYOB (bag) raffle for $100 worth of groceries? When I was shopping there the other day, I asked the cashier how many people enter. She said they estimate it to be 30,000 per month! That number- much higher than I expected- got me thinking about measures that businesses and governments implement to change consumers’ behaviors.

While I was living in Washington, DC, the city implemented a city-wide bag tax- called the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act of 2009- meaning $.05 was charged for each disposable bag a consumer received from a retailer. $.01 of this revenue went to the retailer and $.04 to a government-run Anacostia River clean-up project.

The bag tax was heralded as a win-win-win. Consumers had an incentive to change their behaviors; businesses paid less money for plastic and paper bags; and the Anacostia River would be cleaned up if people didn’t change their consumption habits. Also importantly, consumers had a relatively easy choice in the matter: don’t make an effort and pay the fee or bring a bag and save $.05. In a way, it was an optional tax.

According to an article in the Washington Post, the bag tax netted $2 million, which was half of the expected amount. This is interpreted to mean that consumers changed their habits, opting to bring reusable bags instead of spending $.05. Some studies claimed that this was a negative result, but the tax naturally pans out with more revenue netted and the same amount of bags consumed or less revenue but fewer bags consumed; by nature, it can’t be both. The Washington Times adds that “A city official said the fee has already made a positive impact by reducing the amount of garbage in the river.” Estimates say the amount of trash  produced by bags in the river was reduced by 50%. Another study showed that overall, “customers used 3.3 billion bags in one month, compared to an estimated 22.5 billion being used prior to the law taking effect.”

As with any law, there’s been some fall-out (though some of it is debatable): As I mentioned, opponents state that the lower-than-expected levels of revenue are a negative outcome, but I would disagree with that point based on the rationale above. According to studies, purchases in Washington, DC decreased because of the law; this allegation is contended by many proponents of the tax. One assertion against the law may have some merit though- as one snarky commentor said, “D.C.’s poor and elderly who rely on public transportation aren’t likely to have a Subaru Outback or Volvo station wagon in which to keep all of their Life is Good canvas bags handy.” Additionally, opponents claim that the majority of reusable grocery bags contain unsanitary amounts of bacteria because they are rarely cleaned.

Overall, yet another interesting example of an argument having two valid sides. As for me: I will continue to bring my reusable grocery bag to Trader Joe’s in the hopes that I will one day win the coveted bag of groceries! And I just might pop my bag into the washing machine every so often too 🙂

Another good example of a business positively reinforcing beneficial behaviors: Starbucks subtracts $.10 every time you bring your own cup! You get a discount, they buy fewer cups: win win!

Would the bag tax encourage you to bring your own reusable bag? Know of any other interesting taxes or measures that encourage more conscious consumerism? Does positive reinforcement (like the Starbucks discount) or negative punishment (like the bag tax) work better for you? 

Dear Starbucks…

I have to write a blog post about this because my sister is sick of hearing me talk about it (seriously, just ask her).

Dear Starbucks Corporate (Panera Corporate- please take note):

I love you. You know I do. But I have to bring this up because it’s really bothering me.

I co-own a business. It is legally set up as an LLC but I wholeheartedly believe that it contributes social value to the Raleigh community. There is no doubt it that provides economic value as well: through taxes, as well as the fact that it provides a place for small business owners to grow their businesses so that they, in turn, can provide value to the community.

You may wonder where I’m going with this seemingly obvious clarification.

Could we have been set up as a 501c3? Absolutely. Some coworking spaces are. We chose not to be. Not because we are profit-mongering bloodsuckers, but because it was the right decision for us. If we were a non-profit, would we have been paid a salary? Yes. Would our fundamental model have changed? Almost certainly not. We would still have charged the exact same fees-for-service in order to pay said salary in order to continue building our coworking space in order to continue adding social value to the community. 501c3 or not, they would have been the same fees because our expenses are the same.

So why can’t I hang a flyer on your community board?

If you stand by your decision to only support non-profits, help me clarify another issue I have. Upon seeking clarification of your flyer-hanging policy, I was told by one of your employees that I could only hang a flyer for something where there was no charge.

Wait a minute. Do I have to be a non-profit or do I have to be offering free products and services? These are not the same.

Yes, non-profits often offer things for free. But non-profits also often charge for their products and services. They have earned income streams. They charge fees-for-services. They sell tickets to galas, block parties, and fashion shows. VisionSpring sells eyeglasses. The SPCA sells items emblazoned with the SPCA logo.

And yes, businesses generally charge for things. But they also often offer free things. They offer happy hours, seminars, and workshops. The Raleigh Forum occasionally hosts free events, like our upcoming Design Mixer with AIGA.

I appreciate your willingness to support social causes (no sarcasm there). I really do. But as the lines between business and non-profit blur, I urge you to reconsider your policy. But most of all, I urge you to encourage your employees to understand the intricacies of tax designations before making flawed arguments.

Sincerely,

Cristina (The Girl Who Single-Handledly Keeps You In Business By Buying Soy Mistos)

</soapbox>

Do you have a different opinion or think MY argument is flawed? Let me know! I’m interested in other people’s thoughts on this issue (I’m looking at you, Matt, Sarah, Peter, and Elizabeth!).

Edited: my friend sent me this article, which details Starbucks’ commitment provide loans to small business owners. I thought it was very relevant to the discussion!

Edited: I submitted an edited version of this letter on the Starbucks website and got what may or may not be a form email promising to pass it on to corporate. I then posted it on My Starbucks Idea, which seems to be a pretty democratic way of suggesting changes to Starbucks. Feel free to thumbs up my post 🙂

Clearly I feel very inflamed about this issue, mostly because I see it as symbolic of the continuous divide between business and non-profit.

It wakes me up daily, don’t need no Starbucks

After lots of searching and taste-testing, I’ve determined my four favorite coffees to brew at home. Brace yourself, because none of them are from Starbucks! Like my reference to this song in the title?!

Just like I did with wine, I’d like to do a coffee tasting to narrow in on my preferences. From the four coffees below, I think it’s safe to say that I prefer light-medium roasts over dark roasts. But I think it’s easy to confuse one’s likes/dislikes about strong vs weak with light vs dark roasts.

Dunkin Donuts Decaf- Medium Roast

photo credit: dunkindonuts.com

Archer Farms Coconut Macaroon (found at Target)

photo credit: findingcoffee.wordpress.com

Trader Joe’s Organic Fair Trade Breakfast Blend (Medium Roast)

image credit: tjsdeliveryservice.com

Harris Teeter Limited Edition Toasted Almond

Photo credit: my Droid!

a jaunt to the vineyard

On Sunday, my sister and I decided to take a spontaneous trip to a vineyard as part of our “leaving work at work” pact. We are of course still in love with Raleigh, but it’s nice to get away to rejuvenate and refresh every so often- or in my case, accidentally every weekend (DC then vineyard then DC again!).

So we grabbed PSLs from Starbucks, pumped up the iPod, rolled the windows down, put on the cruise control, and acted like the silly sisters we are.

what i love today

I’m a firm believer in turning your hobbies/interests/loves into your job or career. I love cooking, I started GW Bites. I love community building, I now co-own a coworking space.

But when your job gets stressful, you have to remember what you love outside of work.

So here’s is today’s edition of Things Besides Work that Cristina Loves:

recap: last week of undergrad

Four whole days since my last post! Sorry for slacking; I’ve been busy livin’ up my last few weeks of undergrad!

Highlights

  • Last exam ever (until grad school), including my last night studying for hours in the on-campus Starbucks
  • Two Nationals game (one with friends, one with co-workers)
  • Cinco de Mayo roof party
  • Washington Diplomat golf tournament (grilling, driving golf carts, delivering beers to ambassadors. You know, the usual)
  • Hours on the roof with friends and/or books!
  • A bajillion emails to potential GW Bites investors
  • Summer trip to Norway booked
Coming up:
  • Patio grilling (today!)
  • Last Arganica produce box AND $25 worth of random, awesome stuff
  • Mothers’ Day (how do I send flowers to Rwanda?!)
  • LivingSocial Adventure- Sunset Kayaking and Tequila Sunrises
  • Babysitting for my two favorite babies
  • Launch party for theStrEATS
  • GRADUATION- a whole weekend with family and friends 🙂
P.S. Did you notice that I added pages to my blog? Check out the “Mentions” tab and the “Connect with Me” tab!

the weekend in review

Friday
  • Worked all day
  • Went to U St with a friend- We ate at Dukem, which is probably the most popular Ethiopian restaurant on U St. We left Foggy Bottom at 7:30 and got home just before midnight! It was one of those glorious hours-long dinners- I confirmed with a guy friend that males do not do this; I told him he was missing out

Saturday

  • Enjoyed the amazing DC weather during a short walk
  • Loaded up on Starbucks coffee
  • Stopped by Borders- it’s going out of business, so I bought a soup cookbook and a present for my sister
  • Headed to the photo lab- made two prints in record time [though still 3 hours]
  • Pasta with anchovies and walnuts
  • Babysat  for an adorable 11-month-old
  • Had a fun night out in Georgetown

Sunday

  • Brunch with a friend [parmesan garlic baguette with Irish butter, Jarlsberg cheese, scrambled eggs, fake meat sausage, navel oranges, and mocha mint coffee- yum!]
  • TWO movies for free (thanks to LivingSocial, Fandango, and the people who purchased off my link!)- Take Me Home Tonight [intriguing but odd] and The Adjustment Bureau [incredible! my new favorite movie!]
  • Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate from Starbucks
  • Quick snack date with a friend
  • Work session at Illy with a different friend [we’re working on a special project!]

AC/DC/NC

As in, Atlantic City to DC to North Carolina!

On Saturday, the girls packed up our awesome New Jersey-inspired outfits and hopped in a light blue mini-van en route to Atlantic City. After about 5 hours (including unexpected detours and plenty of pit stops) of techno music and sweet dance moves, we arrived in the classiest place on earth- Atlantic City!! We crammed 9 girls into 1 room (shh, don’t tell the Harrah’s staff). Many of the details are not suited for a blog, but let’s just say we had tons of fun- I even gambled and won 2 whole dollars! And then lost it, but that’s neither here nor there.

I’m back in DC for approximately 34 more hours then I hop in a rental car and make a solo road trip to NC for Thanksgiving- and you better believe I’ll be blasting Iyaz’s aptly titled song “Solo.” Then it’s 5 days of home-cooked food, Christmas music, seasonal Starbucks drinks, Friends (the Thanksgiving episodes), and lounging with my sister on the couch- pretty much our favorite place in the townhouse. We’re also headed to a little log cabin for a night to get fresh air, turn off our cell phones, and run around with my nieces (aka her dogs).

Standing between me and break:

  • One midterm
  • One paper
  • One day of work

Also- check out the article on GW Bites in this morning’s Hatchet: Delivering dorm-friendly dinners. I don’t like the picture, but I’m just happy to get publicity 🙂 Thank you to the writer, the photographer, and all my awesome customers who were interviewed!