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Understanding your water footprint

Understanding your water footprint

wet footprint left on decking by a lake

You may have heard about carbon footprints, but have you heard about water footprints? That’s right everything has a water footprint. From the plastic bottle you drink from, to the human body and everything in between. It’s important to note that your water impact on the environment comes from more than turning off taps and reusing cooking water. We’re about to blow your mind on how water is used in your everyday life. 

What is a water footprint? 

Similar to carbon footprints, water footprints are everywhere. However, they are easier to measure and control. Carbon footprints can be difficult to measure as breathing involves the creation of carbon dioxide. It’s all well and good knowing that water footprints are easier to measure, and control compared to carbon, but what are they? 

Many of the processes in the world involve water usage. Whether that’s by pouring a glass to hydrate with or making a denim fibre to create a pair of jeans. Water might be one of our most precious resources, but its worldwide availability makes it a universal language for manufacturing. 

Your water footprint demonstrates how water is used throughout the journey of a product before it ends up in your possession. For example, almonds grown in California are very water-intensive, so your almond milk will have a large water footprint. This is one of the reasons we recommend oat milk instead of almond milk – it’s more water-footprint-friendly. 

What has a water footprint? 

As one of the world’s most precious resources, water is used a lot. Food and drinks are more obvious items. The juicy liquids from your fruits aren’t a magical new element, it’s water that mixes with the natural flavours of the fruit. No matter if your food is natural, or processed, it will have a water footprint. Even if an item doesn’t have any water listed in its ingredients, consider the water used to create the packaging, or to transport the food.  

Coca-Cola is a fascinating example of a drinks water footprint. Roughly 2L of water is used to make 1L of Coca-Cola. It’s why the company has an internal goal of improving their water efficiency as well as their plastic pollution problem.  

Yes, you read that right. The packaging! Plastic contains water. It takes roughly 83 litres of water to make one pound of plastic. If that blew your mind, wait until you realise that it takes almost 5,000 litres of water to make a pound of cotton. That’s right – even your clothes have a water footprint. 

It can be quite shocking to discover how much water is needed to make an item. It goes to show that turning off our taps isn’t the only way to reduce your water footprint. 

Some of the most water-intensive items in your home 

It’s time to start looking at your water footprint as more than only water. Like your carbon footprint, it’s not going to be as simple as removing everything and living a ‘zero water’ lifestyle. That being said, there will be plenty of opportunities to make better and perhaps more water-friendly choices. All adding up to a water-friendly lifestyle. So, here are some of the most water-intensive items in peoples’ homes and how you can either use them less or not at all. 

The water footprint of your car over its lifespan is anywhere from 52,000 litres to 83,000 litres. It completely possible to reduce this water footprint by driving less and when the time comes to purchase another – opt for a water-friendly option. 

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napkin that reads reduce reuse recycle repeat next to coffee cup

Something which has already been touched upon is clothing. Particularly cotton. While a lot of cotton is advertised as ‘organic’ and ‘sustainable’ it doesn’t mean it has a low water footprint. A pair of jeans can use 8,000 litres of water while a t-shirt can use almost 2,500 litres. Be mindful of your water footprint when buying clothing, especially anything involving denim.  

One thing you want to avoid around your smartphone is water. But it may shock you to learn that mobile phones, tablet and laptops are all very water-intensive products. 12,000 litres are used to make your favourite smartphone. It comes from extracting raw earth materials like lithium and creating other materials like the plastic and glass used for the handset.  

We know, it’s very overwhelming to discover that your water footprint reaches far beyond your home. That it’s in almost every item you have at home as well as every piece of food and drink in your fridge. Similar to your carbon footprint, it’s nothing to panic about. It’s natural. Completely transforming your way of life overnight isn’t realistic, we don’t recommend it. What we do recommend is taking a series of simple steps to living a more water-friendly life than you currently do. You’ll have to watch out for our next water blog to see how to do that though! 

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