“Gross – what’s this?”
Working in food service, this is typically not a response you want to hear. But for the past 30 days or so I have loved hearing it, time and again.
Currently at the Green Bean coffee house, if you order a drink and wait in front of the espresso machine, you are confronted with a pair of water bottles. One is the typical 12 oz water bottle filled with clear, clean water. The second bottle is brown and appears to have dirt and plant bits floating in it (this is the item that evokes the statement above. But have no fear, it is merely tea leaves for effect). The second bottle represents the unclean drinking water that nearly 1 billion people a day use. This slimy, muddy and (unseen to the human eye) infectious water is what a large portion of the world cooks with, bathes in, and drinks. To top it off, there is no choice for the ‘other bottle’ – for the clean water.
So how do I answer the original question? As someone working behind the counter I sometimes struggle with how to respond; how to cram a lot of information into the 2 minutes I have to make a customer’s drink. Do I choose to say ‘Not everyone has access to clean water’ and leave it at that? Or do I launch into my anti-consumerism-stick-it-to-the-man raging about how 2% of the earth’s population is currently using over 80% of the earth’s resources, before customers run away in terror?
I think this is where the Overflow Project comes in. In a humble, unassuming manner, the Overflow Project urges people to examine their lifestyles while considering the lifestyles of others. To realize that while we may be the 99% in America, we are still far and away the 1% of the global population. That through simplifying our lifestyle we can improve the lives of others as well as our own life. Here’s my disclaimer: I am not writing on behalf of the Green Bean or the Overflow Project, but merely from my experiences.
People laugh and point out that one of the ideas on the Project’s info card to ‘simplify’ your life is to give up buying coffee. Strange thing for a coffee house to promote, right? But I say ‘Yes – if giving up buying coffee from us enables you to give generously to others you should do it. Your life will be so much richer for it than any latte I could make for you’. I really believe that and think that my coworkers would support that sentiment as well (many of them have taken on the Overflow Project challenge themselves).
And so, to answer the original question – how do I explain the unclean vs. clean drinking water display – I try to seize the opportunity to talk about relationships. How having immediate access to FREE clean water is something my sister born in a different country should have as well. How simplifying our lives, our time, or the way we spend our money translates to how we interact with and value those around us. And let me tell you, starting the conversation causes a near panic attack in me every time – it’s scary!
It’s never too late to start simplifying. Really, the Overflow Project isn’t just a challenge for 50 days – it’s a call to live differently. And if that means making your coffee at home rather than buying it from us, that’s ok too – we sell our coffee beans in bulk for just that purpose : )