In an effort to fight global warming and pollution, a government funded consumer group and a major water supplier will push to have British restaurants offer free tap water without making customers ask.
Image by Roger McLassus
This may seem weird for our American readers. Although bottled water is a regular presence in U.S. restaurants, free tap water is the standard at most chain eateries and local restaurants. Not so in England. Customers desiring tap water generally have to specifically request it, with expensive bottled water being the standard offering. A recent survey found that nine out of 10 UK restaurants failed to offer customers free tap water and attempted to push bottled waters instead.
British people drink 3 billion bottles of water every year, including 500 million bottles shipped in from other countries. These imports create a huge carbon footprint to deliver a product people can get in their own homes for a fraction of the cost. The transportation of bottled water in the UK alone is estimated to produce around 33,000 tons of carbon dioxide.
In response to all this, the Consumer Council for Water, a government funded initiative, has created an accreditation scheme for restaurants. Eateries that routinely offer tap water as a matter of course will get a tick mark to display on their doors, menus, or website. Customers will then be able to see whether or not a certain restaurant is “tap water friendly”.
The plan has the backing of both the government and Thames Water, a utilities company serving 13 million people in England. The UK’s environment minister Phil Woolas said: “It is not up to us to say what people drink. But people pay significant sums for mineral water and I welcome any campaign to drink more tap water, which is of a better quality than it has ever been before.”
CCW chairperson Dame Yve Buckland said: “I am not saying to restaurants, don’t serve bottled water. I am saying give consumers a choice. It’s not good enough for diners to be treated as cheapskates, just because they have asked for tap water.”
As a concerned environmentalist and poor person, I am giving my full support to this initiative. I grew up in America, so I’m used to free tap water. But ask for tap water here in the UK and waiters frequently give you that “You’re a cheap jerk and I hate you” look. This is especially weird since service charges are usually included in the bill here, so ordering tap water instead of bottled doesn’t affect their income like it would for a waiter who makes money mostly from tips like in the U.S.
While I think people should have the option of choosing to pay way too much for bottled water, I shouldn’t have to beg for tap water from a snooty server. Restaurant owners are perfectly within their rights to push expensive and environmentally unfriendly products, but I am perfectly within my rights to eat somewhere that is more environmentally and customer friendly. Anyhow, I bet this scheme ends up doing very well. This is one of the rare ideas that could actually save people money and simultaneously help fight global warming and carbon emissions. I can’t imagine it won’t be popular.
Info from The Guardian