The Water Footprint of Granola

In honor of Blog Action Day 2010: Water, I decided to look at Ambrosial Granola’s water footprint.  A water footprint is just like a carbon footprint but for water: it is the amount of water you consume in all facets of your lifestyle.  In my experience, our water footprints are almost consistently larger than we expect.  I was hoping to get a relatively accurate assessment by finding the water usage behind each individual ingredient, but it proved more difficult than I’d hoped.

The ingredients in our Grecian Grove Granola are: Organic rolled oats, organic honey, organic golden raisins, organic coconut, organic rice syrup, organic molasses, organic apricots, organic pumpkin seeds, organic sunflower seeds, organic crisp brown rice, organic oat flour, organic sesame seeds, organic cranberries, organic flax seeds, organic vanilla, organic orange oil, salt.

I didn’t even make it past the first one!  I couldn’t find a water footprint for oats.  Honey, nope.  Raisins?  Nothing.  Coconuts!!  Coconuts require 2500 liters of water per kg of coconut. That’s when I realized I was going about this all wrong.  In general, organic farmers make the extra effort to keep water use to a minimum and reuse or harvest it when possible.  So how could my endeavor be relevant when we’re talking about the world averages?

Instead, I decided to draw attention to a few important details in water consumption.  Fruits, vegetables and grains are always better than animal products.  Animals have to consume these crops and, as a result, each carries a larger water footprint.  Beef, for example, has a water footprint of approximately 15500 litres of water per kilogram.  It takes 1300 liters to make 1 kilogram of either barley or wheat and 70 for one apple.  These are still shockingly high numbers, even if they are lower than meat’s water footprint.

The good news is there are steps you can take to reduce your water footprint.  Start by going organic.  A Cornell study found that organic farms use 30 percent less energy and conserve water better than conventional.  They tend to reuse and harvest water and make an effort to irrigate less.  You can also calculate your water footprint and see where you can make changes in your lifestyle.  There are many ways you can make adjustments in your eating habits and also in your home: install low-flow showerheads and toilets, water your garden less and only do laundry when you have a full load, for starters.

Take a moment today to learn about water use in the world and in your own home.  Every little bit counts.

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