But is it fair? Normally, I enjoy seeing Starbucks get slammed by pretty much anybody, for the usual reasons. But this time I’m wondering if we have a case of environmentalists being narrow minded, near sighted, and dumb.

A group identified by the BBC as an “environmental group” called “Water UK” claims that Sarbucks is wasting water by running the cold water tap in each establishment continuously. Starbucks claims that this tap is running a particular cleaning system through which water must flow continuously, and that the tap is not at very high pressure. No one has explicitly stated how much water is flowing though Starbucks system, and no one has explicitly identified a more water-conservative alternative, though Starbucks claims it will look into this.

Water UK’s spokesperson, Barrie Clark, states:

I think it is fair to say that Starbucks have a good environmental record, as far as we understand it, and so we are mystified by this story. We think that it sounds like a serious waste of water and an unnecessary waste of water because we are at a loss to know what that purpose of it is. There must be other ways of ensuring hygiene in a coffee shop other than allowing a tap to run all day long.

Well, Barrie, as we said above, Starbucks has explained themselves, so it can’t be THAT much of a mystery. A waste of water, maybe, but a myster? I don’t think so.

At this point I shall reveal that Water UK is not an environmental group. It is a trade industry group representing UK water utilities, and yes, it is focused on conservation. But it is not an environmental group. It is not like Greenpeace volunteers have chained themselves to the espresso machine or anything….

Starbuck’s perspective. from the BBC report:

“The dipper well system currently in use in Starbucks retail stores ensures that we meet or exceed our own and local health standards.”

She said the company was considering using dishwashers instead of the dipper wells and introducing a more water-efficient way of cleaning spoons.

Starbucks says although it recognises that there are opportunities to reduce its water usage, it does comply with United Nations standards, and it has to balance water conservation with the need for customer safety.

I sense that there is more to meet the eye. Which we will eventually discover.


  1. #1 murmur
    October 6, 2008

    starbucks should stop selling bottled water in plastic bottles…they also are engaging in “greenwashing” in using their own sustainability label on their coffee …

  2. #2 murmur
    October 6, 2008

    starbucks should stop selling bottled water in plastic bottles…they also are engaging in “greenwashing” in using their own sustainability label on their coffee …

  3. #3 Notagod
    October 7, 2008

    What about all the water that cows use? What about all the water that is used for crops?

    The only way to fix a water shortage problem is to limit the human population, otherwise the shortage will just increase no matter what else is done.

  4. #4 Who Cares
    October 7, 2008

    Seems they took on Starbucks because it would generate a look of publicity. The basic system is the same as every cafe or bar here (here = Netherlands) uses to clean glasses. I wouldn’t be surprised if the British pubs use the same system.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    October 7, 2008

    And what about those damn paper cups.

  6. #6 Dunc
    October 7, 2008

    British pubs generally use batch glass washers, similar to domestic dishwashers. You put a load in, they get washed, you take them out. Before they came in to fashion, it was two sinks of hot water, one to wash, one to rinse. You’d fill the sink and use it until it went cold.

  7. #7 John
    October 7, 2008

    Isn’t that all the fast food centers and other coffee shops doing the same? Most of the Americans waste lot of water. I think it should be all not just Starbucks to blame.