CHENNAI: When we think of water conservation and usage, we tend to overlook the indirect usage from everything we eat, purchase and use on a daily basis. At a traditional banana leaf lunch recently, I sat across from a parent telling their child not to waste the food as this could feed other poor children. This triggered in my head an alternate argument from an earth-friendly perspective — wasted food is actually wasted water and energy as well! Indirectly, we could be conserving a lot of water and energy by simply understanding how our food was produced and choosing wisely from our weekly shopping lists.
Most of us do not realise that around 70 per cent of the world’s freshwater is used for agriculture purposes. This means that everything we eat impacts our water supply. Oddly enough, every manufacturing process also consumes water. Imagine things like computers, cell phones, and clothes impact our water supply as well.
So here is some food for thought on the connection between water conservation and food. It takes about 140 litres of water to grow coffee beans and process them to make just one cup of coffee. It takes about 4,000 litres of water to produce one kg of mutton — growing and rearing included, and 25,740 litres of water are required to grow a day’s food for a family of four. It takes almost 200 litres to produce one glass of pasteurised milk. It takes approximately 10 litres of water to irrigate one calorie of food.
Consider the average consumption per person at 1,200-1,500 calories that is 15,000 litres per person per day (our typical domestic usage calculation is about 4,000 in rural areas and 16,000 litres in bigger cities per household per day). That is a lot of water that every household uses up for just daily domestic uses.
Add to the water consumption of agricultural produce the idea of embodied energy and the argument to never waste food becomes even more compelling. Needless to say, after being cultivated — our food makes a very long and arduous journey before entering our kitchen and plates. This makes it all the more important to be aware of where our food comes from and how it is grown.
Just add up all of the food that you eat on a daily basis, all of the processed food you might be unwrapping, all of the vegetables, the meats, the grains, the breads, etc, you will find that there is a huge amount of energy captured in our food. And if you are a fan of ‘Washington Apples’ and other fairly commonly found food that is from far away, your carbon footprint just went up even further.
The next time you get full and decide to waste that last bit of food on your plate or need to teach a child about not wasting food — stop and think for just a minute that we are saving water for the planet and reducing our carbon footprint by being mindful of our food and never wasting what we put on our plates.