4 ways to shrink the water footprint of lunch
FOOD & DRINK | September 1, 2019

4 ways to shrink the water footprint of lunch

The amount of fresh water on the planet has remained the same for millions of years – since well before the time of the dinosaurs in fact! We have a finite supply, of which most currently exists as ice in mountain glaciers, the Arctic and Antarctic.

That leaves us with less than 1% of the world’s water in drinkable form, and we’re using more and more each year. Globally, we’re getting through 10 billion tons of fresh water every day. Much of this comes from lakes and river habitats that are under threat due to overuse, pollution and climate change. 

Globally, we're getting through 10 billion tons of fresh water every day



What can we do to help?

What if we told you that your water footprint is probably somewhere around 5,000 litres of water per day? That’s the average amount of hidden water used to produce food for each adult person in the UK. More than 30 times the water we use on average for daily bathing, cooking and cleaning! 

Tweaking our diets and cutting out food waste can reduce our personal water footprints by 60-70%, helping to ease pressure on the world’s water resources.

Could you try a lunch that’s lighter on the water usage today? To help, here are some rough rules of thumb for a water-friendlier midday meal: 


1) Go veggie

Setting aside chocolate, nuts and pulses as notably thirsty exceptions, plant-based foods tend to have lower water footprints than meat and dairy:

Chocolate =    17,000 litres/kg

Beef =         15,000 litres/kg

Pork =         9,000 litres/kg

Nuts =         9,000 litres/kg

Lamb =         6,000 litres/kg

Butter =    5,500 litres/kg

Chicken =     4,500 litres/kg

Cheese =     4,000 litres/kg

Pulses =    4,000 litres/kg

Eggs =         3,000 litres/kg

Grains =     1,500 litres/kg

Fruit =         900 litres/kg

Vegetables =     300 litres/kg


To instantly lower your water footprint, pick a healthy lunch based around eggs, grains, fruit and vegetables.

Spanish omelette and salad, perhaps? Poached egg and spinach on toast, anyone? Or how about Thai vegetable curry with rice noodles?

Pick a healthy lunch based around eggs, grains, fruit and vegetables



2) Heat up last night’s leftovers

Save time and cash by boxing up what’s left of yesterday’s meal to heat up for today’s lunch. Discarded food wastes not only water but also the additional energy, time and resources it took to produce that food, as well as the money spent on buying in those groceries.

Be on the lookout for chances to save leftovers and opportunities to eat things up!

Discarded food wastes money, water, energy and the time and resources that went into producing that food



3) Choose fresh foods over processed

Did you know that a bag of crisps has a higher water footprint than the equivalent amount of cooked potatoes?

While growing the potatoes is the most water intensive part of the process, with crisps you also need to add in the water used at the factory to clean the potatoes and machinery, plus even more water for producing cooking oil for deep frying, producing fuel for delivery and making the plastic for the packaging.

Steer clear of packaged snacks and ready-meals this lunchtime and opt for a water-friendlier, whole foods lunch.

A bag of crisps has a higher water footprint than the same amount of cooked potatoes



4) Say no to single-use plastic

Every piece of plastic in the world has an associated water cost, due both to the billions of tonnes of fresh water used in plastic manufacturing and the resulting microplastic pollution from plastic litter blown into our waterways.

>> Keep a set of cutlery in your bag or desk drawer

>> Carry a reusable coffee cup and / or refillable water bottle

>> Choose to use standard-sized sauce bottles and condiments over single-use plastic sachets, where possible

>> Take along a bag-for-life to transport your food

>> Replace cling-film with reusable waxed sandwich wraps

Of course, single-use plastic isn’t generally an issue if we choose to eat in rather than take away, so why not treat yourself to a relaxing lunch out today?

Every piece of plastic in the world has an associated water cost, so steer clear of single use plastic whenever possible



Have you gone meat-free or been working to reduce the amount of meat you eat? How do you handle your leftovers? Share your thoughts and comments about the water footprint of your food with us here at Greenredeem on Facebook or Twitter.


>> Frugal swaps to cut your water footprint

>> Are you an accidental flexitarian?

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