Three Grade 6 classes took a break for the routine of school life to tackle the Secret Water Mission- The Water We Eat Challenge. When we think of saving water, we usually think about our direct water use in our daily lives like drinking, going to the toilet and bathing. This challenge helped us to think beyond our visible water use to take in account the water that is embedded in all the goods, services and food we buy on a daily basis. If we are really going to conserve water, we need to see blue in everything we use and do to dramatically attempt to shrink our entire Water Footprint.
At the beginning of the session, we were divided into groups and asked to rank a number of cards showing different foods in order of water used to produce the food item. Everyone had different opinions and it was difficult to reach some sort of consensus. At the end of the activity, we were horrified to discover the true figures. A T Shirt for example used a whopping 2700 litres of water as water thirsty cotton need to be grown and irrigated. Our water print, doesn’t just include the water used to make something but also the " grey water" polluted and water eco-systems disrupted in the process. The dying and chemical treatment of the cotton is a major contributing factor when we consider water pollution. We also learnt that the meat and dairy industry have a major role to play in a countries water footprint and if we are going to live sustainably, we all need to cut back on our meat consumption. 1 KG of red meat used 15 000 litre of water whilst chicken uses 3900 litres of water. Looking at graphs; we were intrigued to observe how global meat consumption has doubled in the past 50 years. Scary trajectory, considering our ever expanding population. Lastly, we learnt that generally speaking, the longer the production and processing requirements, the more water is used. Processed red meat, being some of the worst offenders.
At the end of the day, stick to your GUT instinct; buy natural, wholesome, local, seasonally vegetarian food with minimal packaging. You will be doing your health and the health of the planet a big favour.