Keep your footprint low, even while lounging on the tropical island of your choice! While the footprint of all fruits is still significantly lower than meat and dairy products, some fruit—like bananas, and their water-hungry counterparts, mangos and avocados—have a higher footprint than many other fruits and vegetables. This is due, no doubt, to their tropical origins and the differing demands in terms of irrigation and cultivation. And unless you live near the source, it’s guaranteed those coconuts traveled halfway ‘round the world to get to your kitchen. So next time you contemplate cracking open that coconut shell, just remember that you're choosing a rather water-intensive snack because, at almost double the amount of water embedded in a banana, that coconut may not be the water-wisest decision.
When it comes to the water footprint of foodstuffs, the total is calculated by combining the actual water in the product with all the virtual water embedded in every action associated with the cultivation, collection, and delivery of that item. For example, the farmer, food processor, retailer, and consumer all consume actual water when completing their various tasks, be it growing, harvesting, delivering, or purchasing a food item. But the cultivation and exportation of food brings with it a variety of embedded water costs, including those associated with the byproducts created by food cultivation (agricultural runoff for example), as well as the items and actions necessary for the production and distribution of food. (This includes fertilizers and insecticides, as well as the fuel required for transportation and the packaging that keeps the food safe and fresh as it travels from field to home.) When making decisions about what food to buy, these basic tips can lower the water footprint of your grocery list: buy local, buy organic, buy in season, and buy food with little or no additional packaging.
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