Energy saving has become a way of life and cutting back on our energy consumption both saves us money and helps reduce our carbon footprint. Energy usage is only part of the picture, however, as food consumption and how we use water are massive contributing factors towards our footprints, and thankfully also the easiest to change. Put simply, carbon footprint refers to the amount of carbon dioxide that gets released into the atmosphere because of the daily activities of a person, company, organization, or community. Finding sustainable ways to offset our carbon footprint and fit them into our busy lives can be quite challenging.
Here are some easy tips on how to lower your carbon footprint through food and water.
Supplying us with clean drinking water at home and at work greatly adds to our collective carbon footprint. Our water has quite a journey before it comes out of the tap; there are reservoirs, treatment plants & equipment as well as the purifying chemicals that need to be transported to the plants. In Ireland we have 856 water treatment plants with 60000 km of pipelines, and over 1000 wastewater treatment plants with 25000 kilometers of wastewater pipelines. The energy used in this cyclical process quickly adds up and produces much more carbon emissions than most people are aware of. Becoming aware of how much water we waste compared to how much water we are actually using can be an eye opening experience.
Simple Ways To Save Water
- Don’t leave the tap running while brushing teeth.
- Shower instead of bathing.
- Shower for a shorter period of time, (each minute in the shower uses approximately 17L of water).
- Boil only what you need when putting on the kettle.
- Place a bottle full of water in the toilet tank to save how much is flushed.
- Only wash full loads of clothes, the same goes for dishes in a dishwasher.
- Waste less food; over two thirds of our water is used to produce our food.
- Steam food instead of boiling if possible.
- Collect Rainwater and use for watering the garden or washing the car.
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint From Food
Water Footprint is a term I would not have coupled with an individual’s food consumption before starting this blog. As stated above, over two thirds of all our fresh water is used in the production of the food we eat. On average it takes approximately 3600 Litres of clean water to produce enough food for one person for one day, this is based on the average consumption of all types of food. To feed someone on a vegetarian diet for one day requires substantially less at 2300 Litres a day. The water footprint of the meat and dairy we consume is staggeringly high in first world countries because having to grow our own vegetables or rear livestock for food has become largely redundant in our society. This is due in part to the constant access we have to all kinds of food and how quickly and cheaply we can acquire it.
There are three easy ways to reduce our carbon footprint through how we eat our food.
1. Waste Less Food
About one third of all food produced for our consumption goes to waste, this adds up to 8% of total carbon emissions. A wealth of factors contribute to food wastage on a global scale from food lost during the production process to inaccurate best before dates at the consumer level. There are many ways we can reduce the amount of food we waste but the most important is to just “buy what you need and eat what you buy”. By simply being aware of proper storage conditions, use by dates, and when to favour frozen or canned produce we can avoid spoilage altogether.
2. Eat Less Meat
People on a vegetarian diet have 36% less of a water footprint than those of us that eat meat. While this is a great reduction, cutting out meat completely is just not an option for alot of people. Instead try having a meat free meal a couple of times a week or join the growing number of people enjoying a meat free day each week. Meatless Monday and Paul McCartney’s Meat Free Mondays are two great initiatives to help the individual achieve this goal.
3. Steam food if possible
Steaming food cuts down on the water needed to cook it and also has the added benefit of retaining nutrients better. If something has to be boiled, try keeping the water that is left, this can be used for cooking with or to water plants once it has cooled down.