YWF’s Water-Saving Tip of the Week: Reduce Food Waste

Cut your family’s water consumption by 475,000 litres (125,000 gal) a year

Forty percent of the food produced in the United States never gets eaten - NRDC

When food is wasted the enormous amounts of water needed to grow and process this food is also wasted. It takes:

  • 80 litres (21 gal) to grow a single orange
  • 125 litres (33 gal) for an apple
  • 196 litres (52 gal) for an egg
  • 1,387 litres (366 gal) for a stick of butter…

Here’s how to cut food waste …and your food bill  $1000 to 2000:

  • Understand labels – “Best Before,” “Use By” and “Best By” dates have nothing to do with health or food safety.  Manufacturers simply decide how long their products will remain at peak quality.
  • Go easy on impulse and bulk food purchases. It’s easier to curb waste by buying more often instead of purchasing massive cartloads that are hard to keep track of.
  • Preserve food by freezing instead of leaving it in the fridge to spoil, or prepare smaller portions
  • When eating out, share meals—the average portion has already been supersized.

Food waste is making climate change worse as well.

Your Water Footprint

Winner, Best Science Book in Canada; First Place NYC Green Book Festival

We don’t realize our societies run on water not oil. There is no electricity or gasoline without water. Nothing can be manufactured without water.  The critically-acclaimed book Your Water Footprint (YWF), uses info graphics to reveal the enormous quantities of water that are used to make the clothes we wear, the electronic devices we use and the food we eat.

On average our daily water footprint amounts to 8,000 litres (2100 gal). This is the net amount, water that can’t be reused.

Water-wise choices is all about smart substitutions and changes in habits

Your Water Footprint:  The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use To Make Everyday Product

 160 Pages, 125 Unique Infographics, only $19.95 Paperback   Order today

 (Now available on Kindle)

Oil Steals the Headlines but Peak Water is Here

Oil steals all the headlines, but the virtual water that goes into producing the things we eat, wear and use every day is the biggest risk to humanity

 

First published by NOW magazine

“Our entire society runs on water. It doesn’t run on oil”

THE VIRTUAL WORLD OF WATER

A 9 minute talk about the ‘rhino in the room’ of water scarcity and developing “water vision” to see the hidden world of water that’s all around us.

Click here: Stephen Leahy – THE VIRTUAL WORLD OF WATER
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Daily Life Takes HOW Much Water?

Posted by Brian Clark Howard of National Geographic in Water Currents on April 9, 2015

YWF graphic -pizza

Did you know it takes 240 gallons of water to make a cell phone? Or 52 gallons to make an egg?

The concept of such “hidden water” may seem unfamiliar to some, but it’s an important part of our impact on the planet, argues author Stephen Leahy in the recent book Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products.

Leahy, who has written for National Geographic, spoke with Water Currents about how water is required for almost everything we do, and how we can reduce that impact.

What inspired you to write a book on hidden water?

When I was in Australia doing a piece on climate change and invasive species for National Geographic I took an extra week of vacation and hung out with some Aborigines in a remote part of Queensland. To get water I had to walk 200 yards to a stream. It was heavy to haul the water and when it got dark it felt risky because they have nasty snakes and spiders there. That made me appreciate water more.

Then I went to a sacred waterfall, where shamans are initiated. In one of the final stages a candidate grabs the biggest rock they can lift and jumps into the pool, where they lay down until they drown. If the spirit finds them worthy they are brought back alive and become an official shaman. It had been over 20 years since someone managed that, but hearing about it made me realize that these folks take water really seriously.

And then when I got home from that trip I saw an email from the publisher, Firefly, asking if I wanted to write a book about hidden water. I thought it sounded like a really interesting approach to an important subject.

What aspect of hidden water most surprised you?

I was surprised by just how much water it takes to make everything. We don’t really have any material things without water, from food to housing, furniture, electricity, transportation, and so much more.

I tried hard to find something that doesn’t need any water and I couldn’t, which showed how dependent we are on it. And yet we pay little attention to it. We have a lot of stubstites for oil, but we don’t have any water substitutes.

In your book you note that it takes eight bathtubs of water for a typical breakfast. So what should people do if they want to reduce that?

The easiest way to reduce the amount of water you consume is to cut back on meat, since raising meat is really water intensive. Beyond that, beef is much more water intensive than chicken, so you can substitute one for the other.

Next, if you can buy local food it’s easier to find out about how it was produced, including if the water used was managed sustainably. That’s important because it’s not just the amount of water that’s important, it’s also how it is managed. For example, is excess water returned to the local system?

Farming many water-intensive foods in a desert or semi-desert is not sustainable. California, for example, has a huge water deficit.

It’s also true that about 40% of all food in North America is wasted, which means a huge amount of water is wasted. So reducing food waste can really reduce the amount of water you are using, way more than a low-flow shower head, which is still important.

Meat-based diet VS VegetarianWhat else can people do to save water?

A lot of it is going back to the basics on reducing and reusing stuff. Reduce the number of times you swap our your cell phone for the latest model and you’ll save 240 gallons of water. Find a home for your phone if you really have to have a new one instead of tossing it in the landfill. Consumption of material goods means consumption of water.

Flat screen TVs are also very water intensive, requiring tens of thousands of gallons for each one. So ask yourself if you really need it. Use thrift stores to get your clothes, which are fortunately cool again.

shower

In your book you write that “peak water” is already here and yet few people know it. Can you explain what that means?

The amount of freshwater that’s available is limited, it’s a tiny fraction of all the water there is on the planet. But our demand is soaring. We’re growing in numbers and in our consumption of things, and each and everything requires water, and lots of it.

The Ogallala Aquifer [in the Great Plains] is declining about nine feet a year and within 20 years or so it’s going to be empty. It’s the same problem in California. Three in five people in the world will be experiencing water scarcity by 2025. At Davos world leaders recently said that the biggest challenge humanity faces in the next 10 years is water scarcity.

We’ve covered hidden water at National Geographic before (and in our water footprint calculator) and people often tell us they struggle to understand the concept. They think of water as what comes out of their tap. Do you think it’s a hard message to get across?

It’s a hard message for adults but apparently not so hard for kids, who seem to grasp it right away. Our new book has a lot of infographics that try to break it down to help people understand it. We try to show, for example, that a car is like a giant bag of water, with another bag of water on top of that for fuel. Clothes are bags of water, so are books.

There also seems to be a widening gap between many people around the world who don’t have clean water and those of us who seem to be using more and more. How can this gap be bridged?

Ginormous rivers of virtual water are flowing from one country to another. A lot of it isn’t very smart.

For example, Egypt is a big exporter of oranges, mostly to Europe. But it’s a desert country. It takes roughly 20 gallons of water for each orange, but at the same time they don’t have enough water to grow the food they need. So they end up importing cheap food from other countries.

Australia is the biggest virtual exporter of water, through mining and agricultural products, but it’s also the driest continent, so that doesn’t make sense.

virtual water trade wfn smlSo what can people do?

Don’t use more water than you have. If you can grow crops that can be rain fed, that don’t require irrigation, that’s great. If it requires adding water drip irrigation is far more efficient than flood irrigation.

Stop and think before you do something if you really need it or if there is another way to get the service. Can you get those jeans at a thrift store? Can you take a train instead of drive [which saves on the amount of water needed for fuels]? Can you get your cell phone used?

Sierra Club Radio Asks: What’s the Big Deal About Water Footprints?

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100% Clean Energy, Water Footprints and Recycled Batteries

Starts at 11:55:  Stephen Leahy, author of Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products 

Original link

BOOK REVIEWS

“…a brilliant and shocking exposé on precisely how much water we use…” – Publishers Weekly

“This book is unique in its handling of a complex topic…the content is timely, important, and fascinating” — Library Journal

…exceptionally lucid narration with arresting, full-page info graphics”  — Booklist,  starred review

Your Water Footprint:  The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use To Make Everyday Products

October 2014 Firefly Books, 160 Pages, 125 Unique Infographics only $19.95 Paperback (Also avail in hardcover)

Our entire way of life is based on water; not oil

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Water, water everywhere, but too much is being exploited

BY PAUL WEINBERG | JANUARY 15, 2015

Oh dear, not another reason to worry about the planet! There’s already climate change, pollution, industrial agricultural practices and water and energy profligacy, to name just a few.

Now, veteran journalist, Green candidate for Parliament and first time author Stephen Leahy, in his recently published book, Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products, has come up with a new reason to worry about the planet: the worsening shortages of fresh water that are overexploited for industrial purposes.

“Our entire way of life is based on water; it is not based on oil as government tells us,” says Leahy, who is based in Uxbridge, just east of Toronto.

Leahy is referring specifically to “virtual water,” which involves non-recyclable fresh water that is consumed during the production of food, energy and manufactured goods, but is invisible to the consumer.

It is here that Leahy has concerns with regards to exponential growth. He argues that the tripling of fresh water usage in the past 50 years is not sustainable because this is a finite and irreplaceable resource.canada54

At the same time, he reports, there is insufficient fresh water in the world for human sustenance. Here, the resource is more likely to be recycled and re-used.

Nevertheless, about 1.2 billion people on the Earth live in areas with chronic water scarcity; while another two billion are affected by shortages every year. By 2025, three in five people may be living with water shortages.

To deliver this message, Your Water Footprint relies on a smart combination of graphics and text in its depiction of how virtual water is used in the economy.

It takes, for instance, more than 7,600 litres or 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans; 2,460 litres or 650 gallons for a T-shirt; and 8,000 litres or 2,113 gallons for a single pair of leather shoes.

He estimates that the clothes in his closet are the result of hundreds of thousands of litres of water applied during the production process.

Since many of our clothes in North America are imported, we are literally “sucking” up water from the developing countries in the making of inexpensive garments for the affluent north, his book reports.

cheeseburgerFurthermore, to produce one kilogram of beef, one needs 15,400 litres or 4,068 gallons of water, which is almost 1.5 times the volume of a concrete mixer truck. Animals, explains Leahy “have a much larger water footprint than crops,” in food production.

Also, a single smart phone uses 910 litres or 240 gallons of water in the manufacturing process.

Leahy says that the direct water usage by the average American (showers, toilet, washing, cooking and drinking) is around 378 litres or 100 gallons. In contrast, the virtual water used in what Americans eat, wear and use during the day averages 7,500 litres or 1,980 gallons.

“Humanity faces difficult choices about how best to use the limited amount of water that we have. This has become even more challenging with growing demands on water from a rising population that’s expected to add a billion more people by 2030,” the author says.

This is Leahy’s first book, having spent the past 20 years in daily reporting for a range of news outlets including the New Scientist, Earth Island Journal, the Toronto Star, Sunday Times, The Guardian, Aljazeera English and Vice. Until recently he was the science and environment correspondent for the Rome based non-profit news agency, Inter Press Service.

A veritable globe trotter, he has attended and covered major international scientific conferences, particularly in the area of climate change. His travelling costs have been assisted in part through crowd sourcing efforts online.

In order get his head around the matter of virtual water, Leahy says he had to get on top of related trends in climate, food and energy because all these issues are interrelated.

Human beings — and that includes environmental experts like himself — tend to get stuck in silos of specialized knowledge and lose sense of the bigger picture, he explains. “It is quite a shift to integrate holistically,” says Leahy.

As someone who has from his reporting became quite familiar with the environmental challenges facing the planet, the author still found the research on virtual water a bit of an eye opener. “I knew that [humans] used a lot of water, but I didn’t realize it was that much.”

Leahy says his book “would not have been possible,” without the assistance of the University of Twente in the Netherlands which has its own academic department on water resources and where the data and analysis is freely available for researchers.

Furthermore, he observes, there is less awareness of the water footprint issue in comparison to the better publicized climate change. “Very few governments have come to grips with virtual water,” notes Leahy.

One has to assume Leahy is including Canada’s government here because he has been busy talking about this issue and Your Water Footprint with teachers and students at schools.

Leahy also says he’s caught the research and writing bug and wants to write another book.

Initially, he found the first book hard to write because his journalism career has consisted of jumping from one subject to another all the time.

“Once I got into it and I had to really force myself to get into it, then I enjoyed being able to explore a subject in depth. I really had to think about how to present the information, make it accessible for people,” he notes.

Paul Weinberg is a Hamilton based freelance writer who can be reached at paulweinberg@bell.net 

Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products

by Stephen Leahy (Firefly Books, 2014; $19.95)

Order today

In US:  AmazonPowell’s Books; Barnes&NobleIndiebound

Canada:  Chapters-Indigo Signed copies avail at Blue Heron Books – Stephen’s home town bookstore; In Ottawa visit the legendary Octopus Books

UK:  WH SmithAmazonWaterstones

Australia: Angus & RobertsonBooktopia

New Zealand: Mighty Ape

Stephen Leahy

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International Environmental Journalist

Co-Winner of the United Nations Global Prize for Climate Change ReportingSteve headshot

Stephen has been an independent journalist for over 20 years and has reported on environmental issues from dozens of countries. He has been published in many leading publications around the world including National Geographic, New Scientist, The London Sunday Times, The Guardian, Vice Magazine,  Al Jazeera, Maclean’s Magazine, Earth Island Journal, DeSmog Canada, The Toronto Star, Wired News, China Dialogue, Mo Magazine (Europe), TerraGreen (India), and Common Dreams.

Based near Toronto,  he is also the senior science and environment correspondent for the Rome-headquartered Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS), the world’s largest not-for-profit global news agency. IPS articles are published in over 500 newspapers and magazines all over the world reaching an estimated 200 million readers in up to 20 languages. IPS news is also broadcast by over 1000 radio stations, potentially targeting over 150 million listeners.

Stephen also contributes to IPS affiliates in Montevideo, Johannesburg and New Delhi.

Stephen on Walrus TV: “We don’t realize our entire society runs on water. It doesn’t run on oil”

Interview on CTV Halifax morning show

Stephen’s talk: Inside The International Climate Treaty Negotiations 

His journalism also appears on a wide range of news networks including Reuters AlertNet, DeSmog Blog, TerraViva, InfoSud, Rabble.ca, Common Dreams and more.

Prior to journalism, Stephen had a successful career in the private sector. He is currently a Fellow at the International League of Conservation Writers and professional member of the International Federation of JournalistsSociety of Environmental Journalists. A co-winner of the 2012 Prince Albert/United Nations Global Price for Climate Change and Environment Reporting.

Hundred’s of Stephen’s articles are freely available on his main website.  These cover topics ranging from climate change to food production to nano tech.

main website scnshotTo contact Stephen please use the form below: