So, I hear we only have ten years left to reverse the effects of climate change?? I mean, I read that on Twitter (I swear the sources in this article are much more reliable than social media), but I think it’s time we took this climate change thing seriously. I know you’re probably drowning in assignments right now, and think you don’t have time to implement new habits into your life. But you know what else is drowning? The Maldives. On the topic of water, one of the many ways you can contribute to reducing the effects of climate change is water conservation. When asking a few friends for suggestions on how to conserve water, here are some answers I got:
· Take shorter showers
· If you can’t sacrifice a long shower, shower with friends!
· If it’s yellow, let it mellow… if it’s brown, flush it down
· Drink toilet water (but obviously Brita filter it first)
· Rewear your clothes inside out before doing your laundry (shirts, pants, underwear, socks, etc.) …and front and back if you’re up to the challenge
But what if I told you you could still reduce your water usage and save yourself the embarrassment of someone seeing you naked in the shower by simply opting out of a single meal?
When aiming to minimize our water footprints, our direct water usage is the subject of most of our attention. This includes adopting habits like turning off the tap while brushing your teeth and taking shorter showers. However, our indirect water usage, also known as our ‘invisible’ water usage, is often overlooked (Pettit, 2018). This includes the water required to produce everything we use: from the clothes we wear to the food we eat.
Your diet is one of the largest factors that contributes to your individual water footprint due to the fact that about 86% of all water used in the world is used to grow food (Ercin, Aldaya, and Hoekstra, 2012). Specifically, animal agriculture is incredibly resource-intensive, particularly when it comes to the production of beef. According to the Water Footprint Network, the approximate global average water footprint to produce one pound of beef amounts to approximately 6992 litres of water (Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2010). Comparing this to other common proteins, the production of pork requires approximately 2180 litres of water/pound, chicken requires approximately 1962 litres of water/pound (Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2010) and soy meat requires approximately 474 litres/pound (Ercin et al., 2012)
Now, hear me out. If a typical burger patty requires one-quarter of a pound of beef, the production of one burger patty would require approximately 1748 litres of water. Furthermore, according to Harvard University Sustainability, an average eight-minute shower uses approximately 76 litres of water (2014). This means that the quarter-pounder you drunkenly UberEats to your dorm at 3am after a night at Ale required the same amount of water to produce as about 23 showers. And that’s just the patty!
Choosing less resource-intensive proteins, such as beans, lentils, and even chicken can reduce your water footprint significantly. Reducing your water footprint has many benefits including: decreasing the amount of energy used to process water; minimizing water pollution; and preserving the global freshwater supply, with only 0.007% of the planet’s water accounting for accessible freshwater required to fuel the human population (National Geographic, 2019). So maybe opt for a McChicken next time, or give that Beyond Meat a try, so you can be guilt-free while taking those long, hot showers (but not too long).
Competing for Clean Water Has Led to a Crisis. (2019). National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/freshwater-crisis/#close.
Ercin, A. E., Aldaya, M. M., & Hoekstra, A. Y. (2012). The water footprint of soy milk and soy burger and equivalent animal products. Ecological Indicators, 18, 392–402. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2011.12.009
5 Ways to Measure a 5 Minute Shower. (2014). Harvard University Sustainability. https://green.harvard.edu/tools-resources/green-tip/5-ways-measure-5-minute-shower.
Hoekstra, A. (2003). What is a water footprint? Water Footprint Network. https://waterfootprint.org/en/water-footprint/what-is-water-footprint/.
Mekonnen, M. M., & Hoekstra, A. Y. (2012). A Global Assessment of the Water Footprint of Farm Animal Products. Ecosystems, 15(3), 401–415. doi: 10.1007/s10021-011-9517-8
Pettit, M. (2018). Save Water: Reduce Your Water Footprint. Reset. https://en.reset.org/act/save-water-reduce-your-water-footprint.