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The Quickest, Easiest Way to Save Water

If you also drink a cup of soy milk instead of cow’s milk you can save another 47 gallons each time (2,447 gallons per year if you make the switch once per week). So between the burger and the milk, that’s a total savings of 32,559 gallons per person per year, enough to take 814 baths. Trust me, choosing soy products instead of cow products is a lot easier than trying to save that much water at home (and way easier than installing aerators at restaurants, which requires stealth).

Think about that: you could shut off your water at home (no toilet, no shower, no washing machine, etc.) and still have less impact than switching from beef to soy once per week*.

Inspired? The average American eats 57.3 pounds of beef and drinks 20 gallons of milk per year; swap that all out for soy and save 115,396 gallons of water each year! If you don’t like soy, there are plenty of other options.

You can educate yourself on how much water various foods and drinks require at a fantastic web site put out by the Water Footprint Network. (Before you click over, let me warn you: you may not want to know.)

So if you find yourself pulling your hair out because you can’t afford a front-loading washer, or if it starts to seem like a good idea to leave a spare aerator and a wrench in your backpack (just in case), remember there’s an easier way.

* Note that if you wanted to offset your outdoor water use as well as indoor use, be prepared to switch another 1.6 cups of milk a week for soy milk.

For all of the actual calculations used in this article, see the spreadsheet I created.

(Image: Water drop. Source: Flickr user Casper H. Petersen via a Creative Commons license.)


Jon Fisher is a data management specialist for The Nature Conservancy, the world’s leading conservation organization. He has studied forestry, environmental biology, stream ecology, environmental engineering and how technology and spatial analysis can improve wildlife management at airports. He also loves to cook delicious vegan food. Opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Nature Conservancy.

Read more: Conservation, Eco-friendly tips, Environment, Food, Green, Green Kitchen Tips, Home, Nature, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse, Vegetarian, , , , , , , , , , ,

By Jon Fisher, The Nature Conservancy

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79 comments

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12:10PM PST on Jan 15, 2013

You certainly don't have to go vegan to save water! Just cutting back a little bit on beef and pork in particular can have a really big impact. I think a lot of people are turned off by labels or absolute commitments, so it's always good to just look at the impact you can have through small steps.

1:50AM PST on Jan 15, 2013

Well, I try to save water a lot as I can but I am not a vegan. Thanks for your post Jon Fisher.

1:43PM PDT on Oct 17, 2012

Skipping the beef burger and a glass of milk in favor of food with color: tubers are filling!

6:58PM PDT on Oct 13, 2012

@Everyone worried about soy: read this blog -- http://unreasonable.org/node/1642 The Weston A. Price Foundation is one of the primary groups responsible for spreading some of the misinformation that you may have heard about soy products.

7:06PM PDT on Oct 10, 2012

Exactly! a Vegan diet saves more water than a meat eater who showers only once a week in a year.

7:14AM PDT on Oct 7, 2012

thanks for the insight

2:23AM PDT on Oct 7, 2012

good information to have, thanks!


http://www.thepetitionsite.com/184/737/982/help-provide-clean-drinking-water-for-children-petition-2/
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/10/save-the-forests-master-list-11-15-11/

8:07AM PDT on Oct 3, 2012

@Julie W:
All food uses a lot of water, but the difference between beef and some plant foods is enormous: http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/Animal-products
Also, the primary research this article is based on looked at the ACTUAL water footprint of specific soy products in the Netherlands. The soy was a mix of irrigated and rain-fed (and organic and non-organic).

@Dawn C:
You can indeed purchase powdered soy milk or even coffee creamer; my wife brings them when she travels since she loves coffee.

@Everyone worried about soy:
No need to eat soy if you don't like it. Cut back on beef and pick any bean / legume or grain food to replace it (nuts have a lower water footprint than beef, but not by as much as other plant foods) and you will be saving immense amounts of water. I'd also note that a lot of the concerns people have raised about soy have been disproved in the scientific literature. It can be difficult to know who to trust, but current peer-reviewed journal articles are always where I start (since there's so much misinformation available on the internet).

4:03AM PDT on Oct 3, 2012

they taste better (soy burgers, especially the spiced ones) than the meat anyway....... and water will NEVER be manufactured by humans hey....

10:26PM PDT on Oct 2, 2012

Considering how much chemical mutation has gone on with soy?? No thanks. Eat soy, thanks to Monsanto, poison yourself.

I find it totally unacceptable that you are advocating GMO foods.

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