Water For Life and/or For Money
It occurred to me as I was having my morning coffee that I advise readers in The Green Blue Book that it may take several cups of water to brew a cup of coffee, but it takes 37 gallons to actually make the coffee for that cup. The water it takes to grow the coffee outweighs the water it takes to make a cup, I write.
I left something out. Who makes and how the coffee is produced are crucial to water savings around the world. No, I am not talking about you in your bathrobe standing in front of your coffeemaker. I am talking about the companies responsible for producing the coffee that ends up in your cabinet.
Coffee growers that embrace fair trade principles ensure your buzz comes from plantations that practice sustainable, socially responsible coffee farming and that means better quality and more responsible use of water.
Starbucks, of course, is the brand that jumps to mind for many of us when we think about coffee. Yesterday, I was given some information on what steps it is taking to reduce its water footprint not only in the field, but also in stores.
On a gallons-per-square-foot of store space, Starbucks has actually reduced its water usage by about 10% over the last two years. And its done so by some relatively simple steps. It uses more efficient dishwashers, better coolers to reduce ice melt, and is mandating that all new stores be LEED certified, which will reduce by the equivalent of two households worth of water-use the total amount of water each store uses.
I found this really interesting. It wasn't some techno savvy and cost-intensive operational program seemingly thought up by some fancy consulting firm. The savings came in practices we can all adopt: filling our dishwashers and using them instead of washing by hand (saving a household 2,300 gallons of water per year). Or not letting the ice cubes in our freezers melt away so quickly. (That means preventing little Jimmy from opening and closing the freezer door a lot.) Savings from one tray of cubes across every household in America: 10 million gallons of water.
Simple steps add up, whether on a corporate basis, or individually. Businesses and consumers can combine efforts to shore up water supplies. In the end, we need each other. As a wake up call and reminder to that: The top five beverage companies use as much water on an annual basis as the entire worlds population.
We both share in the planets water supply and we both have vested interests in keeping it sustainable: for life and/or for money.
Thomas M. Kostigen is the author of The Green Blue Book: The Simple Water Savings Guide to Everything n Your Life published by Rodale Press on World Water Day, March 22, 2010. www.thegreenbluebook.com. Photo by Chris Blakeley.