Did you know that the average American uses 2,220 gallons of water per day? No doubt, this is a shocking number. According to GRACE Communications Foundation, most of this refers to use of “virtual water” – that used in food production and transportation, energy, shopping habits and other lifestyle choices we don’t usually associate with water use.
Here are some water footprint examples of common foods:
- An almond requires 1 gallon of water to grow
- An avocado requires 60 gallons of water to grow
- A hamburger uses 660 gallons of water to make
To help each of us determine our individual water footprints, GRACE Communications Foundation has developed and recently re-released their Water Footprint Calculator. This easy-to-use web application asks simple questions about daily routines to give users an estimate of how much water their individual lifestyle consumes. (The calculator combines data from the Water Footprint Network, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and several other sources.)
As the world’s population grows, our use of freshwater increases, through a growing consumption of water-intensive foods, electricity and consumer goods. The growing demand for water causes a strain on resources, especially in parts of the world where agriculture is abundant. By year 2030, experts predict that global demand for water will surpass water supply by 40 percent.
Small changes that each of us can make in our everyday lives can make a big difference in the long run, and the kitchen is a great place to start. Here are some tips from GRACE Communications Foundation for how to decrease your water footprint:
Eat Lower on the Food Chain
Meat and dairy require an enormous amount of water to produce because American livestock and poultry eat large amounts of water-intensive feed (corn and soybeans). Therefore, reducing your consumption of animal-based products can lower your water footprint. Should you decide to eat meat, dairy or eggs, be sure to purchase pasture-raised products, since grass (as opposed to corn and soy) is less likely to be irrigated.
Say No to Processed Foods
Packaged foods like chips, frozen meals, sweets and soda require a lot of water to produce because they are heavily processed. Make your own to-go snacks by slicing up fruit and veggies for school or work, making a trail mix with dried fruit and nuts, or pureeing beans or chickpeas with olive oil and seasonings for a quick dip or hummus.
Plan Out Your Meals and Eat Leftovers
In the US, we waste about 40 percent of our food supply per year, which wastes 25 percent of all freshwater consumed annually. Before heading out grocery shopping, plan out your meals for the week and buy only what you need. If you do end up with food scraps or unwanted leftovers, learn where you can compost in your area to keep it out of the landfills.
Watch the Faucet
Install a low-flow faucet on your sink; conventional faucets flow at around 5 gallons per minute, while low-flow faucets flow at 1.5 gallons per minute. Do your best not to let your faucet run endlessly while preparing meals. Wash vegetables and fruits in a large bowl water and scrub them with a vegetable brush instead of using your faucet as a power washer. Don’t use water to defrost frozen foods – leave them in the fridge overnight instead.
Dishwashers almost always use less water than washing dishes by hand – especially the water- and energy-efficient models. Hand-washing one load of dishes can use up to 20 gallons of water, whereas dishwaters can use as little as 4.5 gallons.
Image copyright GRACE Communications Foundation, 2015