Water Bottle Philanthropy

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[A]s many great projects do, Temple Coffee Roasters’ Water for a Cause collaboration with the IWCA, the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, began on the practical side rather than the philanthropic. Eton Tsuno, director of coffee and green buyer for Temple Coffee Roasters in the (currently) blistering but spacious city of Sacramento, points out that costs are lower for a coffee business to use a private-label water bottle than to order through a provider. He says, “We realized that we weren’t really selling that much water in our retail cafes. So we figured, why don’t we donate the proceeds to someone? It won’t affect our bottom line and we can help someone.”

Given Temple’s long-term respect and support for women in coffee at every level, it only made sense for the coffee roaster to partner with the IWCA. “We know it’s a trustful organization,” says Eton. “They try to help promote women in coffee from farm to roasting to café business, which lines up completely with what we do at Temple.”

Talks began months before the bottles hit Temple’s retail shelves, as well as research on the water and bottles to be used. In the end, that choice was simple: Tsuno grabbed a few private-label water bottles from a local grocery store and called the company that he thought put out the tastiest one. PET for Promos produces water bottles and personalized cups, pens, and mugs, and worked with Temple to design an attractive water bottle filled with local water that was made from 100 percent recycled PET plastic, which is generally considered the safest packaging option in this context.

It’s one task to create a product for a good cause and quite another convey the importance and story of that good cause. We all know how easy it is to miscarry a message in the busyness of a shop context and customer interactions. Tsuno wanted to avoid that problem, so to that end, Mery Santos, IWCP Vice President and Sacramento resident, visited each Temple retail location and educated the staff on what her organization does and where the proceeds from the water bottles would be going. Prior to the visit, the IWCA mission statement was printed out and replicated throughout the stores so everyone—from customer to barista—could see exactly what they were helping. “Everyone in the stores was tested on their knowledge after that,” says Tsuno, “so that customers could ask anyone questions and get good answers.” He adds that each barista expressed excitement over getting to partner with the IWCA, even in a small way, to make women’s lives better around the planet.

Tsuno says they have seen water bottle sales triple in the month since they began the project and that they appreciate the buzz building around it. The bottles sell for $1.65 and $1.35 goes to the IWCA, with the rest covering costs for Temple. When asked whether they will end the project at any point, he responds, “It’s an ongoing project for now—we might think about using the water to donate to different organizations but for now we’ll just see how it goes.”

—Emily McIntyre is a writer based in Portland. 

(Photo: Emily McIntyre.)

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