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Way more than a cup of water in that coffee

April 20, 2010

How much water is used to make that?

A British scientist has come up with a formula about the amount of water used in the production of a cup of coffee, which should make you think twice about that flat white you buy, and not just for Fair Trade reasons.

“Behind that morning cup of coffee, there are 140 litres of water that was consumed to grow, produce, package and ship the beans,” said Professor John Anthony Allan of the University of London in Britain. Read the full story.

His idea of “virtual water” has been around for a few years and is used to look at the production of food and in industry, but only recently has it begun to gain popular ground.

It is estimated a hamburger uses 2,400 litres of water. Wow. I wonder what it is for other consumables such as milk and if it is used for electricity? I would like to see more detail on how his formula works because I imagine it varies significantly between consuming local and overseas products and from place to place.

A similar concept can be seen with measuring carbon footprints, and I think these more holistic ways of viewing the economy to include the environment will become become standard practice eventually.

Back to the coffee. Will it stop me drinking my favourite brew? Let’s be realistic: probably not. But it could help me work on cutting back and also look at buying more sustainable coffee. I don’t know if this is possible and if sustainable coffee producers consider their water consumption. More research is needed.

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