What is a "water footprint" and why does it matter?
The world's water supply is under huge strain from a growing population, a changing climate, and our everyday use of water. A "water footprint" is the amount of water we use, and while most of us may only drink about 2 litres of water a day, on average we each use a staggering 4,645 litres of water in a single day.
The water we use isn't just what we drink and wash with; in fact the vast majority of our water footprint is hidden, or 'virtual', and comes from growing and producing our food and clothing. For example:
- 1 kilogram of beef takes 15,500 litres of water to produce
- 1 cotton shirt uses 2,700 litres of water
Already 1.2 billion people, roughly a fifth of the world's population, are living in areas where water is scarce, and our consumption in the UK of crops and goods from around the world is adding to the problem of local water shortages.
What's M&S doing about its water footprint?
At M&S we're working with WWF to look at how we can reduce our own water footprint where it matters most. Our progress so far:
- We've completed work to assess the water footprint of our clothing ranges.
- We've calculated the water footprints of five key crops: strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes and roses.
- We've improved water efficiency by 18% in our stores, offices and warehouses since 2006/7 (per sq ft) even as the business has grown, thanks to initiatives such as percussion taps (which automatically shut off after a set time), rain water harvesting for toilet flushing, and waterless urinals.
- WWF and M&S have produced a Water Stewardship guide, which offers agricultural businesses practical information on assessing and reducing the impacts of their water footprint. The guide 'Good Water Stewardship: guidance for agricultural suppliers' outlines how suppliers can go beyond on-site water efficiency measures to address the full range of water-related risks to their businesses. It also identifies the simple steps that will assist in reducing a business's environmental impact, demonstrating the business rationale behind these measures. Click here to view the guide.
What can you do?
There are plenty of ways to reduce your water use on a daily basis, particularly around the home. You can also cut down how much water you waste by reducing the amount of food you waste and recycling your old clothes, find out how below.
1. Calculate your water footprint here
2. Saving water around the home
- Opt for a shower rather than a bath (but try to avoid power showers)
- Only fill the kettle with as much water as you need
- Turn the tap off when brushing your teeth
- Install a water butt to collect rainwater for your garden.
- Installing a Hippo water saver in your cistern can save around 3 litres of water each time you flush.
- Save the water you wash your salad and vegetables in – then use it to water your houseplants
3. Food waste is water waste!
- Making the most of the food you buy helps make the most of the water used to produce it, so the less food you waste, the less water you'll be wasting too.
- Did you know that on average we end up throwing away a third of all the food we buy?
- Click here for tips on how you can cut down on food waste and play our new ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ game
4. Recycling your clothes
- By recycling your old clothes rather than throwing them out, you'll be reducing your waste, and making the most of the water used to produce them.
- We're working with Oxfam to recycle, resell or reuse your unwanted clothes and help support people living in poverty. When you pop into an M&S store to buy something new drop an old item of clothing into one of our 'Shwop Drops' - it's called Shwopping.
- Click here to find out more