Monday, July 6, 2015

How much water does your quarter-pounder need?

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So you take short showers and you just bought a high-efficiency washer – good for you!  These are important steps in water conservation.  But there’s an even bigger water user in your life – your diet!

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We’ve posted several times about the environmental advantages of “eating low on the food chain.”  Now you can add conserving water to the list of good things that come from eating less meat.  According to When the Rivers Run Dry by Fred Pearce,

“Get your head around a few of these numbers, if you can.  They are mind-boggling.  It takes between 250 and 650 gallons of water to grow a pound of rice.  That is more water than many households use in a week.  For just a bag of rice.  Keep going.  It takes 130 gallons to grow a pound of wheat and 65 gallons for a pound of potatoes.  And when you start feeding grain to livestock for animal products such as meat and milk, the numbers become yet more startling.  It takes 3000 gallons to grow the feed for enough cow to make a quarter-pound hamburger, and between 500 and 1000 gallons for that cow to fill its udders with a quart of milk.  Cheese?  That takes about 650 gallons for a pound of cheddar or brie or camembert.”

So what’s the take-home?

  1. Eat low on the food chain to reduce water use
  2. Avoid wasting food.  According to the World Food Day website:
      • “In the USA, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month”
      • “In the USA, organic waste is the second highest component of landfills, which are the largest source of methane emissions”
      • “Every year, consumers in industrialized countries waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (222 million vs. 230 million tons)”

Here are some ideas from World Food Day:

Think. Be a smart shopper and think about what you are buying and when it will be eaten. Wasting food is often a subconscious act – become aware of how much food you throw away. Plan meals and use shopping lists. Bring your leftovers home from restaurants in reusable containers.

Eat. Become a more mindful eater.  Eyes bigger than your stomach? Request smaller portions and become a leftovers guru.

Save. Save your food, save your money and save the environment. Donate to food banks and become a conscious consumer.

If you want to read more about the Think.Eat.Save food waste campaign, follow this link and get involved!


Pearce, F. 2006.  When the Rivers Run Dry.  Boston, MA:  Beacon Press.  324 pp.

World Food Day – October 16.  Food Waste:  The Facts.  nd.  5 July 2015.  <>

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