““We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.”
~ Jacques Cousteau, French Naval Officer, Explorer, Conservationist, Filmmaker, Innovator, Scientist, Photographer, Author and Researcher
There are few things that inspire as much wonderment as water. Just think about the number of beach views that flood your Instagram feed every summer. Or the poems, paintings, and water sports that are a celebration of water’s strength and subtlety. Water is a source of inspiration, a place of beauty, and the foundation of life.
Water is life.
And with water just a faucet turn away (at least here in the developed world), it can feel as if it’s an infinite resource. But this simply isn’t the case.
Clean, safe drinking water is a scarce resource.
Even though water is considered to be a renewable resource, we are extracting and polluting water at such a high rate, that the water supply isn’t able to replenish itself.
Water covers 70% of our planet, but only 3.5% is fresh water and of that fresh water 70% is frozen and inaccessible in ice caps and glaciers. This leaves less than 2% of freshwater resources available for human use. This stress on our freshwater supply is intensified by uncertainties of climate change; extreme weather patterns including droughts.
Over one billion people already lack access to clean water and 4 billion live with water scarcity. Our partner Numi Organic Tea is working to change this statistic for their turmeric tea farmers in Madagascar with their program Together for H2OPE. Numi is building wells to deliver clean drinking water in their farming community. Just this past year, the Numi Foundation has built 23 wells to deliver clean water to 4,000.
In contrast, the average American uses about 751,777 gallons of water per year. This number is an average “water footprint,” which is like a carbon footprint. But instead, a water footprint is the amount of water that someone uses over a given span of time. What’s tricky is that most of that water usage is virtual, hidden, or used indirectly to provide goods and services, such as food and electricity.
You may have an 8-ounce glass of water with your factory-farmed burger. But your water footprint for that meal is much larger than just 8-ounces. It takes close to 660 gallons of water to raise and feed the cow. And if it’s a cheeseburger? Then it takes 382 gallons of water for one pound of cheese. If you are interested in seeing more examples of how much water inputs are required for the food you eat, check out this great read from our partner Grace Communications. You may be really surprised!
The good news is that the indirect nature of water use means that you can do more than just take shorter showers to conserve this valuable resource. There are plenty of actions you can take individually and part of a larger community to lower your water footprint. Your challenge today is to learn about your water footprint, opt for some changes, and also to start a ripple of behavior change on your campus and throughout your networks by raising awareness.
Every person on earth needs and deserves clean water – it is a human right. As water use increases and supply dwindles, the pressure for sustainable management of this resource is on us. This means engaging in water conscious practices and conserving wherever we can. Our hidden water footprint makes up 96% of our total water use. Knowing your baseline use will make it easier to reduce your footprint.
Any idea how much water you are using every day? Think about the food you eat, the showers you take, and the water you drink to quench your thirst. How much direct water consumption? And indirect consumption?
And just in case, here’s a definition of virtual water from Hoekstra and Chapagain: “the volume of freshwater used to produce a specific product, measured at the place where the product was actually produced. It refers to the sum of the water use in the various steps of the production chain.”
Here’s how to calculate your water consumption:
Upload your responses and a screen shot of your social media post in a PDF document. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Virtual water use makes up the majority of our water footprint. Virtual water use which is the water put in before the goods reach you. You may be surprised just how much your virtual use adds up. Everything from growing the food you eat to your favorite pair of jeans requires water for production, a lot of water. Many of these products, goods, and services may have a heavier burden than you think.
Choose five items you use/ consume/ wear daily. Make sure they relate to different lifestyle categories, such as: food, energy, tech, clothing, transportation, etc.
Upload a PDF Document with your responses and a screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
During the zero waste challenge, you began to pay closer attention to single use coffee cups and styrofoam trays and maybe even started to integrate more reusable options into your daily life. But one piece of the single use equation that often gets overlooked are plastic straws. Think about it, plastic straws are everywhere and dispensed in most beverages whether requested or not. We use 500 Million Plastic Straws Every Day in the U.S, enough straws to wrap around the earth’s circumference 2.5 times. Many of those straws end up in our oceans, polluting the water and harming sea life. If we don’t act now, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
These single-use plastics like straws have a super short lifespan and they are ubiquitous. They are used once (if) and then thrown away. Straws are particularly dangerous to our environment and marine life.
Millions of seabirds are killed from the effects of plastic pollution every year. One of the most common plastic items ingested by seabirds are plastic straws from juice boxes. The plastic reduces the storage volume of their stomachs, ultimately causing them to starve. It’s estimated that 90 percent of all seabirds have eaten pieces of plastic. That number is predicted to increase to 99 percent by 2050.
Not only are these plastics barely used before being tossed, but they, like all plastics, never biodegrade and take hundreds of years to break down. It’s these straws that are clogging up our oceans.
Here’s your chance to say “no” to plastic straws.
Upload a PDF with each of your responses, visuals, and a screenshot of your social media post. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address and school.