There are hidden environmental costs associated with the production of the material items we collect and foods we consume. We’ve all heard of a carbon footprint - but have you ever considered your water footprint?
For instance, behind every cotton shirt is 713 gallons of water, while a simple cheeseburger calls for a hefty 650 gallons of water. As a frame of reference, if you were to indulge a 1 hour shower, this would consume about 126 gallons of water.
Calculating our water footprint entails more than counting time spent in the shower or measuring the water used to wash dishes. While these factors may be more obvious areas of control, it is actually the choices we make as consumers that have the most pressing effect on our overall water footprint– with our food choices bearing the most significant impact.
Understanding the water footprint of common food items is the first step toward more mindful consumption and efficient allocation of resources. The water footprint of a product is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the product. For example, it takes 327 gallons of water to produce one pound of barley malt. Considering just one six-pack of beer uses about one pound of malt on average, these gallons add up quickly!
A growing awareness of water supply issues has led to many craft breweries doing their part to minimize waste by reducing the water to beer ratio used during production, which is important and great.
However, the fact remains that most of the water footprint associated with the manufacture of our favorite beverage happens long before the brewing process begins. The cultivation of the crops required to brew beer–namely malted grains like barley and wheat–account for about 90% of the water footprint.
To minimizing our overall footprint and improve the way we value precious resources like water, we should reduce, reuse, recycle, and of course–upcycle. By creatively reusing ingredients that are byproducts like brewers "spent" grain instead of virgin materials, we can build a better food system that does more with less.
Together, we save grains, save water, and most importantly we save your taste-buds from mediocrity!