Water footprint and others. You choose for yourself which direction you go

Ślad wodny

Recently, the terms “water footprint” and “carbon footprint” have become popular, shedding new light on our activities. Reduce your footprint! Choose products with a smaller footprint! In principle, I agree with these slogans, but what do they mean in practice? It would seem that rational behavior and frugality in using “everything” closes the case. Are you sure? Is giving up your morning cup of coffee the same as giving up the yeasty cheese from the bakery around the corner? It seems unrealistic to remember what trace generates what. So what should we follow? How do you not only act effectively, but also efficiently?

Water footprint – about whether turning off the tap is enough

Saving money on daily water use is certainly important. They matter especially locally, when nature and we are agonizing in drought conditions, as we have in recent weeks. But they are definitely not enough if we want to protect resources. Awareness of this fact is necessary for us to make daily decisions. Unfortunately, it’s not just a matter of our willingness to make consumer choices that are good for the planet, but more importantly, the knowledge we have – what to buy, how to act and what to pay attention to.

We have already written about what a water footprint is in Water Matters. Recall that this is a measure of the amount of water used by humans in daily life, in its most basic aspect, but also in the production of various products or services. It includes both direct water use (e.g., drinking water), which accounts for only 3% of the water footprint globally, and indirect, in the supply chain, related to the production of goods and services (e.g., crop cultivation, animal husbandry, industrial production, transportation, energy production).

The water footprint, depending on how the water is used, was colored green, blue or gray. Excellent, but what is the result for me and for you?

Not much of a theory yet, but let’s try to translate it into practice. As a consumer, I asked myself if I could check on the product what kind of water footprint it generates. Unfortunately, I can’t. Products are not labeled in this regard. This is where a list of calculators offering to calculate the water footprint of almost anything comes in handy. Yes, it is needed, but who has the time to check every thing this way? I also see some pitfalls, as the water footprint of an apple from a neighbor compared to an apple from Moldova, from which we import them, are not equal.

Infographics that list a few to dozens of products are also available. But who, when going to the store, will look for them? So what to do about it? How do you support your own consumer choices and water conservation?

This is not a simple task, but instead of trying to memorize entire lists of assigned water footprint values, you can learn some simple rules, which I have formulated below:

  • The closer, the better – this is especially true for products from agricultural crops. Let’s buy domestic, seasonal products.
  • The less processed the product, the better – the more complicated the production process, the more water is usually used. So, less processed products are not only about health, but also about resources.
  • If the water in our tap is of good quality, let’s give up bottled water.
  • Let’s not waste food, let’s buy as much as we will use; in case of surplus – let’s use freezers and composters.
  • Let’s limit the consumption of red meat.
water footprint
Water footprint and others. You choose for yourself which direction you go 1

Carbon footprint – about whether to switch to a bicycle

Life on earth could not exist without water, just as it could not exist without coal. This element is present everywhere, circulating in a cycle between the atmosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere. It is part of every living organism. Initiated more than two hundred years ago, the Industrial Revolution was the beginning of the extraction and burning of fossil fuels on a massive scale. The development of civilization, so necessary for us, also has many side effects. One of them is the release of large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which we are now trying to reduce by various means. Hence the need to estimate the carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is nothing more than the amount of greenhouse gases that have been emitted directly or indirectly into the atmosphere by an organization, product or service. By calculating the carbon footprint for a given company, it is possible to identify places in the production or service process where these emissions can be reduced. But let’s get back to us – the consumers – and our efforts to reduce the release ofCO2. In the case of the carbon footprint, some of the products have been labeled and we can know the number of grams ofCO2 released in the production process.

However, as with the water footprint, I would recommend caution in this regard. We don’t usually have carbon footprint calculators or tables of values at hand, so comparing the values listed on the packaging can only aid the decision of those who know whether it’s a lot or a little. I would recommend a hands-on approach. And here’s the good news, all the principles indicated at the water footprint also apply to reducing the carbon footprint. Thus, continuing:

  • Let’s use reusable bags.
  • Choose unpackaged products.
  • Let’s give up buying lawn rolls and conifers. Let’s sow flower meadows and plant deciduous trees.
  • If possible, switch from a car to a bicycle. Let’s remember that the train is the most environmentally friendly means of public transportation.

The above principles are just some of the recommendations that can be implemented in our daily lives, but they are certainly a good start.

Environmental footprint – about what the European Commission wants to achieve

As I mentioned above – there is no uniform and consistent way to inform consumers about which products are manufactured with the need to protect the environment, reduce resource consumption and reduce emissions. For this reason, in December 2021. The European Commission has made recommendations on the use of environmental footprinting methods for measuring and communicating environmental performance over the life cycle of products and organizations.

This is certainly a challenge for entrepreneurs, as the proposed method for determining the environmental footprint requires a thorough analysis of the entire production process. For consumers, it’s hope for clearly presented information on products and more informed choices. However, the legislative procedure is still not complete. The EC has scheduled a legislative initiative for the last quarter of this year to regulate procedures for the approval and inspection of environmental claims.

You make the choice

Walking along the seashore this holiday season, we see our, left on the sand, footprints washed away by the next wave. Unfortunately, this is not the case with water or carbon footprints. They cannot be completely eliminated, only reduced. Both in our daily lives and working in an organization that is responsible for their greatness. By joining ventures or initiatives that strive for technological progress, low-carbon, renewable energy development, we can become part of Idea 3W, a modern platform for supporting water, hydrogen and non-energy coal projects. For more information, please visit the Idea 3W website.

I also encourage you to watch the animation“How to save water, an educational animation about people in a 3W world” and calculate your footprints using calculators available online. It’s worth doing a test and comparing values to juggle choices in the future. Often our wanderings are along already trodden paths. Let’s carve out our own paths, make conscious choices so that when we look back, we see as few footprints as possible.

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