We are ‘water’ we eat.
We are what we eat.
We are what we eat. This is true for our health, but it is also true for our water footprint. The food we consume affects our water footprint through the indirect consumption of water to produce the food, whether we know about it or not.
Water may be the new “calories” - something hidden, yet impactful not only on the body, but also on the environment.
Rewind a few years and Byron was my ‘hang out’. If you’d asked me what my last supper would have been: “a cheese burger with extra bacon, and fries” would have been my answer. How things have changed as now I eat plant based 90% of the time.
We think little about the origin of our food on our plate and its impact on the environment. A standard beef burger (minus the cheese, or extra bacon) uses 2400 litres of water – all gulfed down in a few minutes.
Food Water Footprint
A recent study found that a UK persons water footprint from food consumption (domestic and imported) is 2757 litres a day. A congratulations are in order however, as Brits beat both the Germans and French (no surprise there), who came in with food water footprints of 2929 and 3861 litres respectively.
Yet all western diets have a transition to undergo towards more sustainable eating habits. A diet that relies on meat and processed food has an impact on both our health and the world’s water resources.
Without any changes in behaviour, by 2030 demand for water will be 40% greater than supply. The result? Water stressed cities, lower food production, competition of resources, and droughts across the world.
Raising livestock uses up large amounts of water due to the water footprint of the feed consumed by animals throughout their lifetime. It is suggested that to produce 1 kg of beef, it requires 47 kg of feed on average.
Groundwater depletion is embedded in the international food trade as much of the food we eat is irrigated with water drawn from underground water resources. More water is being used than is being replaced by rainfall. But there is no escape you must have a food water footprint as all food requires water to grow.
But no fear: there is good news. We can do something about it. According to new research changing your diet can reduce an individual’s water footprint by as much as 55%. (See the BBC article)
A healthy pescatarian diet where meat is replaced with fish and pulses, and animal fat is replaced with oils from crops, reduces water consumption by 33-35%.
A healthy vegetarian diet (no dish or meat, oils from crops in place of animal fat) reduces water consumption by 35-55%.
Now you know, why wouldn’t you make a simple change?
Here are some suggestions:
Try eat one or two more plant based meal to your diet a week.
Go for a veggie option when eating out, if cooking plant based meals is a whole new world.
Choose a less water intensive meat: eat a chicken rather than beef and save 2,200 litres of water.
Reduce the amount of processed food you eat. Processed food is more energy intensive that whole food in it’s natural state.
Small steps win the race. To ensure sustainable lifestyle changes, start small. All of these changes will help feed your cells and the world’s water resources. Remember you are what you eat!