Your Tuesday Tip: Our Water Footprint Extends to Food, Too

By Katlyn Manka
​Planet Forward Intern/Marymount University

It's the time of year for orange leaves, cooler days and celebrating the new harvest season. Along with the harvest comes a string of food-centric holidays. So with some Oktoberfest celebrations still to be held, plus Halloween and Thanksgiving festivities on the horizon, it's also the time to consider the water footprint of your food.

Of course, some classic fall foods require more water to produce than others. The pork in that Oktoberfest bratwurst for example, takes 576 gallons of water to produce per pound of meat. There's always the option to settle for a beer instead of meat, but 86 gallons of water are required to produce just one pint sized glass of beer.

Extrapolating values from the above National Geographic article and a chart from ecology.com, a single pumpkin pie requires about 458 gallons of water. That does not include spices, which account for 1% of the global water footprint. With poultry taking a toll of 293 gallons per pound of meat, a 16 pound holiday turkey comes with 4,688 gallons of virtual water use.

Even in the production of apple cider, roughly 13 pounds of apples are used to make just 1 gallon, consuming 1,560 gallons of water in the process. Fortunately, pumpkin carving and cooking is relatively safe when kept simple. Production of pumpkins and other gourds or squashes only requires 44 gallons of water per pound. Similarly, if you bake your apples rather than drink them, the water footprint shrinks to 117 gallons per pound.

Don't forget the mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes and baked yams either. Root vegetables carry a significantly smaller water footprint with potatoes taking up 38 gallons of water per pound of potato. Carrots need only a miniscule 26 gallons of water per pound.

Because meat and dairy take the most water to produce, be mindful that even a small amount in an otherwise water-light recipe results in a large footprint.

(Image at top: Pumpkins and other squash require 44 gallons of water per pound, which is actually one of the more water-light foods. Source: Kam Abbot/Creative Commons)

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