Water Footprint: One Steak For 15415 Litres Of Water!
OMG!!! This is what you are likely to say when you are told that 15415 litres is the amount of water required to produce one T-bone steak. Brace yourself for the European Commission’s (EC) campaign “Generation Awake!”, which brings awareness about the disproportionate use of resources vis-à-vis everyday food and other items. As part of this campaign, EC has launched a video, which has already gone viral on the Internet, sparking debate across nationalities and, hopefully, some awareness too. Since March 22 is World Water Day, it seems the right time to know more about it:
1) The EC Campaign
Whether it is a hamburger, a steak, a sneaker, a bowl of rice, a pint of beer, a slice of cheese, a bar of chocolate, or a loaf of bread, water is required to make everything. By water, it doesn’t mean just an ingredient. It means the amount of water required in terms of resources used to prepare that item. And if EC is to be believed, thousands of litres of water is consumed to make just one such piece of food or other items. It is this unsustainable pattern of consumerism that the EC wants to draw your attention to. The video launched for this purpose addresses “environmental, economic, social, and personal consequences” of using resources without thinking of a sustainable pattern. This campaign is available on imagineallthewater.eu and as the name of the website suggests, everything is weighed in terms of the water consumed, figuratively.
2) The ‘Viral’ Video
In this short clip, men are shown filling up different colored balloons being filled with water and then arranged in an illustration so as to show how much water is equal to a hamburger. Although, the amount of water that goes in producing a hamburger is very small in comparison to how much goes into making a steak, it is much, nevertheless. The Commission has called upon interested individuals to make their own video clips and submit it on the website. These clips could demonstrate the amount of water consumed in producing everyday products. The aim of this exercise is to create awareness among people towards excessive use of water resources in feeding the modern world’s obsession with all things material.
3) Other Ventures
The Commission’s campaign to highlight our water footprint is not going to rest here. In fact, EC has planned a set of activities for later this year, which include a video competition as well as live events. The video competition would be open to general public in September 2012. The live events, to be held across Italy, Romania, The Netherlands, and Spain, during early autumn, will also focus on how much water is used indiscriminately around us and how much of it can be saved.
4) The Water Footprint
On its website, EC writes, “Globally, there is enough water to meet all our needs. In Europe, for example, up to 8800 litres of water is available for each European inhabitant per day, but only 1800 litres is abstracted. The problem is that this water is distributed unevenly, meaning that while some regions such as western Norway have access to lots of water, others, such as southern and central Spain, suffer shortages.” That is just a part of the story. Uneven distribution and indiscriminate usage are two faces of the same coin, which may lead to ultimate water shortage in the world. This is reflected in the fact that so many of our everyday items use up too much water, as described below:
- A pint of beer takes up 170 litres of water in its production. Most of this water is used in the cultivation of ingredients like hops and barley. You can save water per pint of beer by either drinking less (we know, it is difficult!) or purchasing beer made locally.
- A T-bone steak consumes 15,415 litres of water, which makes it a “serious offender.” Once again, water used to grow crops like soybeans or corn, which are fed to the cattle, make up for the most amount of this 15,415 litres. Giving up meat altogether may not be the solution but you can reduce consumption of beef.
- A cup of coffee is manufactured at the cost of 132 litres of water. This popular drink may have a smaller water footprint per cup but if you consider that just in Europe, 3 million tons of coffee is consumed every year, you will understand that it is no small amount to give. Add to this the fact that most of the coffee supply of the world comes from regions like Latin America and Africa, where water supply is already scarce, and you begin to realize the magnitude of the problem.
- A loaf of bread consumes 48 litres of water during its manufacture. Nobody is asking you to stop eating bread but you can surely start making it at home, to reduce the water footprint.
- Your favorite snack, pizza costs 1216 litres of water per slice. That is a staggering amount of water considering the fact that who doesn’t eat pizza these days, right? And since no pizza is without cheese, which itself uses 152 litres of water per slice, it becomes all the more important to pay attention. You can help reduce this footprint by purchasing pizza made with organic tomatoes, which do not consume as much water as other crops. Or better still, grow your own tomatoes and make pizza at home.
Boxed in with these facts, you may stop and ask yourself how much water do you actually need? Well, the answer is not simple. Too much water is going into keeping ourselves amused everyday, either with food or other items. The EC’s “Generation Awake” campaign seems to have struck the right note in this direction. If you love your pizza, your burger, or your pint of beer, and want to have it for the rest of your life, you need to work today to reduce the water footprint or say goodbye to your favorite foods.
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