Footprints in water

alla kostromicheva Vogue Nippon May 2010 The Girl from Atlantis

** From time to time I will re-post some of my older posts. This is one of them. About fashion and our water footprint**

There has been loads of talk about carbon footprints and energy use in the past years, and it´s a good thing as we can make a difference in it by buying locally produced, travelling less (by plane or car) and switching to greener energy sources. But what about all the other areas of goods manufacturing that are related to our everyday consumption? Like water for instance.

All living things need fresh water. As the population of Earth and our consumption level rises, the need for fresh water increases dramatically. A single person can do a part while watching the amounts that we use daily, but most of it is used in agriculture and heavy industry. Everything you buy ,that has been made from something living, is made by using water at some point. This means for example all of your food, cotton clothes, the magazines you buy, lattes at the corner cafe and the cardboard cups you drink it from... Everything is made using water and the only way to effect that is to watch carefully what you buy and consume.

For example, it takes..
140 litres of water to make 1 litre of milk
900 litres of water to grow 1 kilo of corn
1100 litres of water to grow 1 kilo of wheat
2300 litres of water to grow 1 kilo of rise
22 000 litres to make 1 kilo of beef meat
140 litres of water to make one cup of coffee
1893 litres of water to make one pair of jeans
2385 litres to make a hamburger
(source UNESCO-IHE, Water Footprint Network)

So you make yourself feel better by going out and buying a n ecologically produced t-shirt or jeans and then relax with your friend while eating a hamburgers... Not good. This is the main reason why I see recycled materials and trashion as the only ecological way to consume fashion. It has the lowest water and carbon footprint. The only thing better is to buy and use nothing. A this point I´d love to know how much water it takes to grow industrial hemp as I know for a fact it is much more ecological and uses less water than for example cotton, polyester, bamboo or soy. Looking a these numbers you must also realize there is other reasons for stop eating meat than "animal rights".. It has a huge impact on your daily water footprint. It is not just two or three things you do, it's everything you do. But we must all start somewhere. Just know that eventually you must educate yourself more and take it further.

Textiles and water use:

water-footprint textiles

These images are from the Water Footprint poster. You can order it online from

Water footprint 2
Water footprint 3
water footprint 4

You´ve all heard it before. Buy less new and spend more on locally produced. Finland for example has one of the largest resources of fresh water in the world compared to the size of our population and the size of our country. They call us the country of "thousands of lakes". Yet 40% of our fresh water footprint comes from outside of our borders as we consume so much things that have been produced elsewhere and imported to the country. 40%!! Makes one think we need to send some back for free..

One would go crazy thinking about it all, so I try to cut down on buying anything new, recycle all my waste, drink only tab water and eat no industrially produced meat. And I still feel bad cause I know I could do more.

Anja Portin, a Finnish writer just released a book on our water consumption called KIRJA VEDESTÄ. If you´re a Finn, I suggest to read it and show it to your friends. It should be available soon also in Swedish.


Outi Les Pyy

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  1. Such a great article, really every bit helps and if you're aware that's even better. Although I'm not the "greenest" person out there my ways have really rubbed off on my friends and family, most of them don't take plastic bags anymore! This might be a slow process but it's really great to see more people finally getting how important our resources are.

    Now to just get them to be vegetarians! haha

  2. I agree that the argument for using less is undisputable, I just have always wondered whether water statistics like this aren't a little bit misleading: water used in agriculture does not go through a blackhole once it hits the soil, instead some (substantial?) amount of it runs off/filters through the soil/evaporates etc and rejoins aquifers/streams/rain systems/etc.

    I have also been really curious how the animal vs. non-animal footprints (carbon, water, decomposition time etc) compare: leather bag vs. pleather bag, etc.