Coffee + Tea starbucks

Published on October 8th, 2008 | by Stuart Stein

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Starbucks: Wasting Up to 6 Million Gallons of Water Every Day

The Sydney Morning Herald, The Dallas Morning News and The Sun published articles today that estimated that the Starbucks wastes up to 6 million gallons of water every day. The Sun said,

As part of a company policy aimed at preventing germ buildup in its taps, Starbucks stores are directed to keep water running constantly into a sink, called a dipper well, to clean utensils and wash away food residue.

As a result of running water all day, every day at each of the company’s 10,000 worldwide coffee emporiums, Starbucks wastes water in an amount The Sun estimated, to be enough daily water for the entire 2 million strong population of drought-hit Namibia in Africa or fill an Olympic pool every 83 minutes. A single Starbucks tap left running for just over three minutes wastes the amount of water one African needs to survive for a day in drought conditions.

I hate waste, but I hate greenwashing and hypocrisy even more. I recently wrote a piece on Ethos Water, a company currently owned by Starbucks which uses PepsiCo to distribute its water to wholesalers and retailers across the country. Five cents from each bottle purchased is donated to a foundation the gives grant commitments to humanitarian water programs that alleviate the world water crisis.

Add that Starbucks’ mission statement posted on the company’s Web site, claims that it has a commitment to

understand environmental issues, to strive to buy, sell and use environmentally-friendly products, and to instill environmental responsibility as a corporate value.

I don’t know about you, but I’m confident that if you look up “hypocritcal” or “greenwashing” in the next revision of The New Oxford American Dictionary you’ll find a picture of Starbucks.

Shame, shame!



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  • http://www.squidoo.com/social-issues cchiovitti

    I saw this article the other day and just couldn’t help but think that if they’re doing that out here (which I’m sure they are – it looks like widespread company policy), the farmers are going to be pissed. We all get our water from the same place and they do not take kindly to people wasting it.

    I have noticed before that many ice cream parlors also leave water running continuously in a sink.

  • http://www.greenandchic.com/blog Carla

    I worked at a Starbucks back in 1996 while I was in college, and they had the same policy back then.

    I guess that bring it to the top of my long list of reasons not to eat or drink at Starbucks.

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  • Rachel

    I wonder if Starbucks does this here in Australia as well. As most of the south and eastern states (South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and southern Queensland) are suffering through the worst droughts in recorded history and we are all on some form of tight water restrictions, I for one would be peeved as all hell if they’re doing it here. If they’re not, then I would want the Australian chain to be sending data back to HQ to test whether it’s necessary.

  • Rachel

    Duh – should’ve checked the cited articles more carefully. Man alive, this burns. Here in Melbourne, we can only water our gardens twice a week (which means I carefully mulch and ration water over my victory garden) and Starbucks leaves the tap on all day!?

  • evelyn

    My FIL who was a health inspector for restaurants says this is standard practice for certain situations in restaurants…where they’re rinsing utensils that are used over and over again (like ice cream scoops). If they don’t do it, they get cited by the health department.

    So although this IS a huge waste of water, they’re not doing it to be jerks, and the problem needs to be addressed via public health regulations (which maybe need to be altered to keep the stuff clean another way which is agreed upon and acceptable).

  • Kaitlin

    I have seen this in almost every coffee shop I’ve ever been to, and I’m willing to bet that this water is somehow recycled. I find it hard to believe that a company like Starbucks, with so many claims to sustainability in its business practices, would waste that much water on a daily basis and expect to hide it.

  • Rachel

    I was so irate with this information, I fired off a letter to Starbucks yesterday afternoon (Australia time). If y’all don’t mind, I’ll put their response here:

    Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company. We appreciate your writing to us with your concerns about the amount of water used in our stores by the dipper well system.

    We recognize that this issue needs immediate attention, and we are working to address it. Our challenge is to balance water conservation with the need for customer safety. The dipper well is an effective and proven system to rinse away food and liquid residue. It helps keep utensils clean and prevents bacterial growth, ensuring we meet or exceed our own and local health standards, which is our priority. To minimize water use, our stores partners are encouraged to keep the dipper well flow to a minimum during operating hours, and completely shut off when the store is closed.

    We are working to find alternative solutions to help minimize water use while complying with food safety regulatory requirements and we are actively evaluating several solutions. We are committed to phasing in new practices as they are proven safe and effective.

    Two of the possible new solutions we are exploring as an alternative to the dipper well are a Single Use Spoon procedure and a new water-saver spoon rinse approach. While neither of these approaches has been proven yet, we are excited that they may have the potential to reduce our overall water use associated with dipper wells.

    We do place a high priority on water conservation, and you may be interested to know that we actually have several other ways that we are currently conserving water in our stores, including:

    • Installing high-pressure and temperature dishwashers to clean dishes quickly;
    • Installing aerating spray nozzles in our sinks that reduce water consumption;
    • Using rinsers with blasts of higher pressure water to clean pitchers instead of a long, constant stream from the tap;
    • Reprogramming espresso machines to dispense less water during each rinse cycle of the shot glasses; and
    • Testing in stores to evaluate the latest technologies designed to reduce energy and water use.

    We continue to routinely re-evaluate our equipment, store design and training opportunities to reduce our overall water use with the goal of ultimately reducing our environmental footprint. In fact, our overall water use per square foot decreased this year.

    Sorry to use up so much space, but what do you all think of their response?

  • http://www.turnoffyourtaps.com/ Adam

    Please sign our petition and stop the wasting of our water! http://www.turnoffyourtaps.com/the-petition/

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  • mamadeacon

    I really am getting tired of everyone complaining about this company and that company. Put your energy into helping your cause. The people that are complaining probably leave the water running while brushing teeth, take long showers and flush the toilet every time.

  • http://disqus.com/Carl_Barron/ Carl Barron

    For heavens sake the water is not wasted it is recycled as it goes back into the rivers and the sea.

  • wow

    Seriously? THIS is what you’re worried about? You realize that water is paid for by these companies, right? And that the reason they leave the taps on is so people don’t get sick? Please, please, please find something to do with your life that doesn’t involve inane pointless yammering and ’causes’ you don’t really understand.

  • http://wholebeancoffeeonline.blogspot.com wholebeancoffee

    Super-Duper web site! I’m loving it!! Will appear back again – taking you rss feeds also, Regards.

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