vegetables spilling out of brown paper bag

What foods have high water footprints?

There’s a lot of talk about carbon footprints and how they affect climate change, but it’s important to know that carbon emissions aren’t the Earth’s only challenge. After all, it’s 71% water! So, if there’s another footprint to consider, it’s a water footprint. But what is a water footprint? Simply put, it’s how much water is used during a process, it could be growing a plant, harvesting a crop, transporting food or even packaging it. That’s right, even plastic has a water footprint from its manufacturing process. To follow on from last week’s blog, we’ll look at how food waste feeds climate change from a water footprint perspective.

Why is it important to reduce food waste for a water footprint? 

Food waste creates a terrible impact on climate change, yes. Like everything else we do in this world, it has an impact. Some impacts are bigger than others and food waste is one of the largest. But reducing food waste isn’t just about preventing onward effects like carbon emissions, it’s also about reducing the damage caused by production methods.  

For every mile that a truck travels to deliver food to a supermarket, there’s an impact. For every litre of water sprayed onto crops in greenhouses, there’s an impact. Impacts that we can’t easily get away from. It’s about reducing any negative impact and we do that, by not wasting items that we purchase and being mindful about what we bring into our homes in the first place. 

What foods have high water footprint? 

It’s important to consider reducing your impact before your food reaches your plate. So, if you started reading this wondering ‘what is a water footprint?’ – just respond to it like a carbon footprint. All products have a water footprint, so all we can do is reduce it where possible. One of these ways is by purchasing foods with low water footprints and avoiding those with high ones. Here are some of the most water-intensive foods: 

  • Beef 
  • Nuts 
  • Sheep meat (including lamb) 
  • Goat meat 
  • Pig meat 
  • Butter 
  • Chicken 
  • Pulses 
  • Eggs 
  • Oil crops (including soybeans, avocados and rapeseed) 

As you can see, a lot of these foods are animals. They are water-intensive for the same reason they’re carbon-intensive – they’re living beings just like us humans. We create high water footprints the same way we create high carbon footprints. Eating more vegetarian foods can drastically reduce your water footprint. 

Water-footprint problematic foods 

You may or may not be surprised to see nuts are high on that list. Typically, just over 9,000 litres of water are required to make 1kg of nuts. Of course, this is an average, there are plenty of different types of nuts. The most water-intensive though – that’ll be almonds. 

Almonds are a problematic nut. Not only do they require a large volume of water during production, but 60% of them are grown in California (a water-scarce area) and are shipped across the world. Having an even larger impact than you may have first considered. If you’re looking to reduce the impact of the milk you use, for example, almond milk is not your best option. Oat milk is and it’s easy to make your own at home to save even more on your footprint! 

The next time you hear someone asking, ‘what is a water footprint?’ we hope you’ll be able to answer. Not only that, but we hope you’ll also share a little bit of knowledge about how to reduce them by carefully selecting what goes into a diet and how much of it. Look out for our next blog with even more tips on how to make your food more sustainable.

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