Energy Diet

That Hamburger Is Very Thirsty

I’m not sure when it started, but the idea of wasting water has bugged me ever since I was a teenager. It annoyed me how my dad would turn the tap on and then do other things at a leisurely pace while he waited for the water to get cold. I wondered whether we really needed to leave the sprinkler on all day for our lawn. I got into the habit of turning off the tap while brushing my teeth or washing my face. I also adhere to the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” philosophy also mentioned by Michele when it comes to flushing the toilet, if I’m the only one around.

So it’s ironic that I’d become so blasé about bottled water over the years. At home, I use a Brita pitcher, but I’d started to buy Perrier a lot, because I like it; and I’d started to grab bottled water whenever I was traveling or out on a long walk, whereas before I just would have found a water fountain, or gone without.

As with many things on this diet, change is often as simple as a little extra thought and planning. I realized I had a perfectly good water bottle that could easily be clipped onto my luggage for when I travel, and I can get into the habit of bringing it with me on walks. When it comes to Perrier, well, there’s not much I can do other than acknowledge that it isn’t necessary and stop buying it so much.

This last concept is not an easy one for Americans to get. If you like something, and you can afford it (or if you have a credit card), why not buy it? In the home of Coca-Cola, tap water has very little marketing muscle. We certainly don’t experience anything along the lines of this amusing campaign in Brazil, which urges people to pee in the shower as a means of saving water. In the States, this campaign was played in the media for novelty, not for education. We’re still on the idea of not using plastic shopping bags!

Even as I congratulated myself for cutting out bottled water and changing the way I boil pasta and use the tap, the staggering scope of our water use began to seep in (excuse the pun) to other lifestyle cracks of mine. I was so busy thinking about the water flowing from the tap that I wasn’t even considering how much water is embedded in such favorites as beef, cheese, wine and even T-shirts.

This hidden water interactive lets you compare the water-intensiveness of different products. Not surprisingly, beef is one of the most water-thirsty products you can eat; goat, chicken, lamb and even pork take dramatically fewer gallons of water per pound to produce. Yet another reason to reconsider that burger…