Just one week ago, on March 22nd, we celebrated World Water Day, where organizations, companies, and individuals from around the globe drew attention to the importance of water and the significant challenges we’re facing in the 21st century. Water pollution and large-scale water shortages have already left 2.1 billion people without access to safe drinking water and, while there are many factors at play, the issue leaves many wondering what they, as drinking water consumers, can do to help prevent further damage to our ecosystems and protect our precious water supplies.
Industrial, agricultural, and energy demands are often seen as the main contributors to water shortages and pollution, but when it comes down to understanding exactly what we can do as purchasers, it can be difficult to decipher which actions will be the most impactful.
With recent articles highlighting the immense amount of water required for cattle and almond farming, to name a few, there is another, more demanding culprit, that you may be less familiar with – chocolate.
Demand for this confectionary treat is increasing thanks to population growth and rising purchasing power, and with Easter – the second largest chocolate holiday – upon us, cocoa-based products are flying off the shelves at a record pace.
What impact is this having on our water supplies?
In 2013, water consumption required to produce 1 kg of chocolate was estimated at just over 17,000 L while more recent estimates suggest upwards of 24,000 L for every kilogram of chocolate – that makes one average sized chocolate bunny equivalent to a 28-hour shower. When it comes to 1 kg of beef, the required water consumption drops to 15,000 L and down to ~200 per kg of potatoes, cabbage, and tomatoes.
What makes chocolate such a significant consumer is not only the farming of cacao seeds but the vast amounts of water required for production, packaging, and transportation. That means that you don’t have to eliminate chocolate from your diet to help reduce the footprint. Selecting products with reduced sugar and minimal packaging from environmentally-responsible companies and buying local when possible can have a significant impact on water use.
As Professor Ghadouani, an environmental engineer from the University of Western Australia emphasizes, it’s important to raise awareness about the water footprint of all foods and with chocolate being both the largest contributor and one of the most in-demand holiday treats, it is a great place to start.
So, as you enjoy your Easter traditions this year, be conscientious of the impact those chocolate eggs and bunnies have on our water supply, take care not to waste left-overs, and challenge yourself to incorporate new non-chocolate-related traditions into your family’s holiday.