The key to making our world’s population more aware of the impact of the individual is to expose it. In general, we need to have higher standards and we need to do a better job to promote global learning from all three aspects: global awareness, global perspective, and global engagement.
In terms of resources, if a person was to cut his or her shower down from twelve minutes to four minutes, he or she would be saving sixteen gallons of water per shower, or 5,840 gallons per year. This could save a person up to $100 a year on water usage. It is these kinds of mathematics that provide people with the incentive to change their unsustainable ways. But the big issue is getting this information out to the public, and actually making people relate the issue back to themselves.
Water consumption is a huge concern for today’s population due to how wasteful we tend to be. More water consumed results in higher energy costs and possible shortages in areas where water is not easily accessible. Certain cultures, simply by geographic location, are naturally bound to have a smaller water supply and a higher demand from the population. A huge part of global learning is having that perspective that just because you have a faucet with running water, doesn’t mean another person across the globe has the same luxury.
Below is one way we can start to spread more information to the public.
Most of you have probably never been, or even wanted to go to Idaho. Probably the most random state in the US, we have one thing that we are known for. This thing is so popular, in fact, that we emblazon it on our license plates! Idaho is loud and proud about our potatoes. And yes, before you laugh, there is other stuff to do there too, but potato production is the pride of the Gem State. On a more analytical level, the potato production out of Idaho alone accounts for $1.9 Billion dollars a year of profit for the state. Idaho produces more potatoes per year than any other state, with 62% being used for processed/ dehydrated foods (such as McDonald’s french fries), 29% are shipped fresh and 9% are planted for certified seed. 310,000 acres of land in Idaho are dedicated to the growth and harvest of potatoes. Last year alone, Idaho produced 134,850 cwt of potatoes. 1cwt = 112 pounds. So that means that last year, Idaho produced 15,103,200 pounds of potatoes. The average weight of one russet burbank potato (which is the most commonly produced type of potato in Idaho) is 5-7 oz. So basically, that’s a whole lot of potatoes.
As far as water is concerned, this level of growth places constant stress on the environment. Most of Idaho is high desert, which means that it is in a state of perpetual drought. An average of 34 gallons of water is required to grow just one pound of potatoes. So if we are to estimate how much water was used to grow Idaho’s potatoes last year, that figure sits somewhere in the ballpark of 513,508,800 gallons. (However, it was probably more because the number of pounds of potatoes produced, does not account for the potatoes that went bad or were contaminated in the growing process). All in all, this is a huge amount of water being used by only one state for only one crop. While the Idaho potato industry may be lucrative and historic for the state, it is not environmentally conscious nor is it sustainable at this rate.
Thinking about what I want to eat for dinner, I don’t often consider how my choices are impacting the environment. The agriculture and livestock industries require massive amounts of water; with this said, some choices for dinner are more environmentally sustainable than others. According to Kai Olson-Sawyer, a Senior Research and Policy Analyst in the GRACE Water and Energy Programs, “the total amount of water needed – to produce one pound of beef is 1,799 gallons of water; one pound of pork takes 576 gallons of water. As a comparison, the water footprint of soybeans is 216 gallons; corn is 108 gallons”. Thinking about the amount of fresh water required to raise livestock vs grow crops, choosing a plant-based diet is much better for long-term environmental sustainability, due to the extreme strain on our water resources from the livestock. The extensive amount of water required to raise animals comes partially from how much the animals need to eat and drink, as well as the number of animals that are produced in our massive food industry, especially in the United States. Due to the large differences in water requirements for production, plant-based diets contribute to much better environmental sustainability than diets that include meat.
Click here for the article link.
Agriculture accounts for 80% of water consumption in California. This mainly accounts for the growing of the plant Alfalfa. Alfalfa is a plant grown to feed livestock. Beef consists of a large portion of the American diet. In order to feed these animals the production of Alfalfa is increased significantly due to the increase in demand for a beef hungry diet. Beef has a water footprint of 4 million gallons per ton produced. This is far more than any other crop.
Additionally, the way that meat is being produced today is different than it was decades ago. Because the meat is not being handled the same way, when it does not reach standards of the FDA this also means that water is wasted. According to a New York Times article, when 8.7 million pounds of beef are wasted that is roughly equivalent to 631.6 million gallons of water wasted. That is equivalent to about 15 million barrels.
If we relied less on a meat heavy diet and replaced 50% of the animal products normally consumed, there would be a 30% decrease in an individual’s water footprint. If individuals had a vegetarian diet, their water footprint would be decreased even more to about 60%. Seeking out less meat hungry diets will help to conserve the amount of water used for Alfalfa.