Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an article about how companies are starting to calculate their “water footprint” as well as their carbon footprint to institute more water friendly policies.
Commercial companies have discovered that it takes “20 gallons of water to make a pint of beer, as much as 132 gallons of water to make a 2-liter bottle of soda, and about 500 gallons … to make a pair of Levi’s stonewashed jeans.” One company has even determined takes 630 gallons of water to produce a typical hamburger!
The methods of calculating a water footprinting, however, still have yet to be standardized. Some people think that a water footprint should only contain what is actually used in a factory, others think that the water used to grow the ingredients for the supply chains, and occasionally companies even include water used after the product is sold (i.e. for transportation, refrigeration, storage, etc.). How far should we go down the line though? Should Tide or Gain be expected to consider the water to be used in all loads of laundry?
Another important issue that occurs with water footprinting is that a “water footprint” is not equal in all areas of the country. While it may take more water to grow a crop in region A, depending on rainfall statistics and water availability, it could be preferable to growing a crop in region B. For water footprinting to be successful, it needs to be decided what should be included, as well as finding a way to easily compare footprints from different regions.
As water footprinting begins to gain popularity, more companies are evaluating their water usage – an often changing their policies! Unilever reposted in a 6 year period saving $26 million by decreasing the water use in their factories. And they aren’t stopping there – they have a whole plan to make the company even more sustainable. As more companies realize the amount of fresh water used in certain practices, they will see they can not only help protect freshwater, but they can also save money!
So in the morning when you drink a pint of beer (20 gallons), a 2-liter of soda (132 gallons), or put on a cotton t-shirt (700 gallons) and jeans (400 gallons), think about it.