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Your Water Footprint and the Circle of Life

Quite similar in concept to the carbon footprint, our water footprints are defined as “the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual, business or nation,” by Waterfootprint.org [www.waterfootprint.org]. People use lots of water for drinking, cooking and washing, but even more for producing things such as food, paper, cotton clothes, etc.

This relates to our discussion of eating less meat (and one of our favorite general themes: using less stuff) in a number of ways, but before we get to that, we should run the numbers. In the US, our water footprint is 2,500 cubic meters per capita, which translates roughly to [strong]660,430[/strong] US gallons per person per year. Compare that to 700 cubic meters per year per capita (184,920 gallons) in China and 1150 cubic meters per year per capita (303,798 gallons) in Japan. That’s a lot of water down the drain at our hands.

When you consider that it takes about 1,916 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, it helps contextualize the impact of your meat-eating choices. Sure, we can all use less, buy less and consume less, which is easy to say and hard to do, but breaking it down and considering these numbers makes one simple food choice — to eat less meat — have much more gravity. TreeHugger isn’t in to guilt-tripping anyone into a greener lifestyle, but we encourage you to ask yourself this: Is having a big hunk of steak really worth almost 2,000 gallons of water?

Our collective water footprint is a huge topic, and one we’ll definitely return to in the future for a closer look. There are tons of ways to cut your water use back (by tons, literally) without any big-time sacrifice; stay tuned for more soon!