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Fri, Mar 30, 2007 - Page 10 News List

US restaurants help conserve by saying no to bottled water


Bye-bye, bottled water. Some upscale US restaurants are getting rid of it in the name of environmental conservation.

The move, which recently spread to the famous Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, is based on environmental concerns over the energy used in the transportation and disposal of all those containers.

"We just decided this was something we had to do," said Mike Kossa-Rienzi, general manager of Chez Panisse, where owner Alice Waters pioneered the eat local, eat fresh concept. "It just makes sense to us to not have to use all the energy and resources to bottle water in Italy and then truck it to our restaurant and then after that deal with the recycling of it."

Chez Panisse stopped serving bottled non-sparkling water last year and expects to stop serving bottled carbonated water in a few weeks, Kossa-Rienzi said.

At Poggio in Sausalito, Larry Mindel has been serving filtered tap water since the restaurant opened in 2003.

Environmental concerns are one factor. Another is price. Even though he could charge diners double or triple what he pays for water, he said it gives him a "stab" to pay so much -- or charge others -- for something that falls from the sky.

"Haven't you gone to a restaurant and they just expect you to order two or three bottles of water and it's US$27 by the time you're done?" he said. "I just thought that from a consumer's point of view that they were getting shortchanged."

While lots of restaurants serve tap water, the trend of upscale places going exclusively to tap appears to be new, said Gigi Kellett, associate campaigns director for Corporate Accountability International, a group that is campaigning against bottled water as the privatization of a public resource.

But International Bottled Water Association spokesman Stephen Kay says the switch does not have a big conservation impact and limits customer choices.

On the other hand, Susan Leal, general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, said the switch is fabulous.

"They're taking a step against the, I believe, deception that's going on out there which is that somehow bottled water is superior to tap water," Leal said.

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