Conservation Talking Point

Just a cup of coffee?

Coffee and Water, Aqua Pavilion, Floriade 2012, Venlo
Written by Stuart Wickes

Talking Point: Just a cup of coffee?

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I took this photo in the water pavilion at the 2012 Floriade, a once a decade international horticultural festival that takes place in Holland. I thought a horticultural show would be a boring day out; I mean how much fun can you have checking out the latest flowers? But this was something else – a ‘Theatre of Nature’ – an enormous green park with five interconnected nature-zones to explore, each highlighting different ways nature plays a part in our everyday lives – for food, energy, materials, relaxation or pure inspiration.

Coffee and Water, Aqua Pavilion, Floriade 2012, Venlo

Just a coffee sir? With free giant water footprints

Stopped by the coffee

In the end it wasn’t the plants, flowers, trees, vegetables or fruit that grabbed me, beautiful as they were, but this overflowing coffee cup. I stumbled across it while queuing with hundreds of others to grab a coffee. But the overflowing water and message on the cup made me think twice about the consequences of doing so.  Apparently it takes 140 litres of water to make a cup of coffee. No, not to fill the cup and do the washing up but to grow, process and transport the beans. That’s 1,100 drops of water to make one drop of coffee.

And I might drink 3 or 4 cups of coffee in a day, especially if I’m having a bad one. Which is a lot of water being used just so I can chill out with coffee and cake; almost enough to quench someone’s thirst for a year. All of which got me thinking about whether I know enough about the environmental impact of the everyday things I do? And whether I am doing enough to teach my kids about them or to care about issues like the growing global water crisis?

Forest Beck Cumbria

Locally water may seem clean, plentiful and on tap. But there is a hidden global freshwater crisis we are all part of.

Water crisis? What water crisis?

When it comes to water I found the National Geographic’s Freshwater initiative a good place to start finding out more about the issues. There’s some articles and quizzes to get you up to speed and test your knowledge, an interesting water footprint calculator and a fun Water Wiz game to get kids thinking about water use at home.

I totally lost the game but quickly discovered I leave some giant water footprints. The cotton T-shirts I recently bought the kids cost 2,700 litres of water each to produce, the little 250g bar of chocolate I bought Kirstie has a price tag of 6,000 litres, and the litre of wine I had my eye on for Friday night was going to set me back 1,004 litres.

Green Table Floriade 2012 Venlo

Do you think about the hidden environmental costs of the things you eat, drink and wear?

And there was me worrying about leaving the tap on when I brush my teeth. It’s all good stuff though, a useful place to learn yourself, get the kids engaged with the issue and get some practical tips on ways to reduce your water footprint. The Brits amongst you will be pleased to learn a cup of tea has less than a quarter of the water footprint of a cup of coffee. So at least there’s a change that’s going to easy for me to make. Although convincing Kirstie may take some doing.

Talking Point

Do you think about the environmental costs and consequences of everyday actions? What do you to make yourself and your kids more aware of them?

Join the Conversation

Talking Point is our series of short Photo Friday posts. Each week we pick a photo and post a talking point and invite you to join the conversation. Do leave a comment with your thoughts.


About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!


  • It certainly gives you pause when you hear statistics like that – I had no idea that it took that much water to make a cup of coffee! There are some things (like my coffee) that I’m not sure that I could give up completely but I think it’s important to have this kind of information so that I’m actually considering my environmental footprint when making every day decisions about consumption and deciding what we can make do without. And it’s definitely good to get the kids thinking about it and maybe prevent them from developing habits that have a negative environmental impact.

  • I will admit I don’t think about it all that much. I do try to do things that have a lower impact on our world – like biking, wearing clothes more than one day, etc… – but I don’t stress over it. Maybe I should…

  • Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I am aware of the environmental impact my decisions have and other times, I get busy and don’t think twice. I love reminders like this to put me back in the right frame of mind!

    Thanks for linking up!

  • These are amazing facts! we are living in times when water is becoming scarcer and here we are buying products which actually consume lots of water. I think now the time has come for the scientific community to come together and come up with ‘water friendly technologies’

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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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