Happy National Water Day! Wouldn’t it be nice to celebrate the same holiday 50 years from now? Becoming more aware of your water usage is crucial, especially considering over 1 billion people today still don’t have access to clean drinking water. As you can see, water conservation is vital!
The average American uses about 7,500 liters of water a day – twice the global average! Shockingly, the food we consume accounts for 70% of this water footprint. Before you come up with an action plan, read on to find out how what you eat contributes to your water footprint!
Here are 5 foodie tips for saving water:
- Eat Local
About 1 to 2 billion gallons of water are used daily to refine petroleum products like gasoline. Transporting food products long distances contributes heavily to the water footprint. In order to drastically cut back on water usage, try buying locally-sourced food products. You can even try growing your own food if you have the resources!
- Decrease Meat Consumption
The average American consumes 160 lbs of meat annually, tripling the global average. Cutting back on hamburgers, steaks, and chicken tenders will go a long way in decreasing your water footprint! The amount of water required to both feed and raise different animals for meat production is jaw-dropping, and ranges from 4,000 to as much as 15,000 liters for every 2 pounds.
Now let’s relate this to the typical American diet… the average meat eater’s diet requires about 5,000 liters of water daily for meat consumption alone! You could fill up your bathtub 15 times to equal the amount of water used solely for the meat on your dinner plate.
In order to conserve water, adopting a vegetarian diet for 1-2 days a week could significantly decrease your weekly water usage. Try jumping on board with the Meatless Monday initiative to ease yourself into being more water-conscious. For the die-hard meat lovers out there, try eating more grass-fed meat, as notably less water is used than the traditional grain- and cereal-fed meat options. Also, if you have the chance, opt for pasture-raised eggs, dairy, and meat.
- Shrink Your Food Waste
Americans are extremely wasteful. Can you believe that 40% of our annual food supply is thrown out? That means every person throws away about 20 lbs of food each month! With that amount of food waste, 25% of all freshwater resources are wasted, which is cringe-worthy. In order to alleviate this serious issue, try buying only what you need. Eating leftovers is another great idea. If you happen to throw food away, try composting your trash – it’s healthier for the environment.
- Cut Down On Processed Foods
Yep, put down those potato chips. The numerous steps necessary to process food are quite water costly. Foods that fall into this category are candy, chips, bread, crackers, and microwavable meals, which are notorious on college campuses. Realistically, most college students are not going to give up microwave meals altogether, but the conscious student can certainly cut down. The water necessary to grow and clean the original ingredients, process, package, and ship the final product requires vast amounts of water. In order to cut down on the processed foods, try relying on snacks such as trail mix, raw veggies, or hummus.
- Eat More Plant-Based Foods
Not only are fruits and vegetables a wholesome and nutritious choice, but they are typically more conservative on water usage compared to animal-based products. Fresh produce such as legumes, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cabbage), tomatoes, squash, and melons thrive under dry conditions. And, sorry to break it to all you coffee lovers, but your daily caffeine fix requires a hefty amount of water as well. Maybe you can cut back on the joe or try drinking tea for a change!
Perhaps you never realized how much water it took to produce the food we eat on a daily basis! It’s quite mind-boggling to tally our daily water footprint; however, using the simple tips above will exponentially support water conservation for a more sustainable future.
Jackie Parker is currently a junior nutritional sciences student on the dietetics track at Texas A&M University.