Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Waste Not, Want Not

One event. 
One day. 
3,600 participants.
1,616 pounds of food waste. 

Looks good, no? Having hand-picked through it I can tell you it was a mix of fruit, vegetables, bread, rice, coffee grounds, pasta, french fries and beans. I can also tell you it does not smell all that zesty after sitting in the summer heat for a few days. But what can I say? Event planning: we do it for the glamour, am I right?

For fun, let's assume my one day of food waste was a single food item. 
How much water did it take to grow the food that was composted, 
assuming it was 1,616 pounds of:

Tomatoes: 146,601 litres of water, or enough to grow 2,932 tomatoes.
Lettuce: 175,921 litres of water, or enough to grow 2,154 heads of leaf lettuce.
Apples: 610,838 litres of water, or enough to grow 4,886 apples.
Bananas: 586,404 litres of water, or enough to grow 3,665 bananas.
Rice: 1,224,119 litres of water, or enough to grow 403 bags of rice.

Bread: 1,339,200 litres of water, or enough to grow wheat for 2,443 baguettes.

Coffee grounds: 13,853,800 litres of water, 
or enough to grow beans that would brew 
104,715 cups of coffee.

“More than one-fourth of all the water we use worldwide is taken to grow over 
one billion tons of food that nobody eats. 
That water, together with the billions of dollars spent to grow, ship, package and 
purchase the food, is sent down the drain.” 
Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director 
Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). 

It's World Water Week. Want to save water at events? Stop wasting food! 

For easy tips that also save money check out this post from the archives.

Water footprints estimated using Waterfootprint Network Product Gallery.
Thanks to Global Green Integrators for measurement support!


Urban Earthworm said...

This is an amazing post. Short, but very impactful. I know I've said it before, but I love your blog. I've been away, and I'm glad to be getting back to things. Food waste really saddens me, but I had never thought about the water impact of it all.

Would you consider doing a guest post for www.UrbanEarthworm.org or allowing me to syndicate one of your posts? Email me at my gmail - TheUrbanEarthworm@

Again, great post, great blog!

The Green-Eyed Event Planner said...


I appreciate the fact that you broke it down to numbers, because it really puts it into perspective.

The footprint of our water consumption is so much larger than simply what is consumed during the event and we don't always realize it.

Everything is connected.....we sometimes need reminders.

Judy Kucharuk

Shawna McKinley said...

Thanks to you both for the comments! I think one of the hardest things with food waste at events is we whisk it away a little bit at a time from the front of house, and no one sees what happens in the kitchen. So it's an issue of out-of-sight, out-of-mind. My hope was the actual event data and metaphors would at least help make it and the even-more-invisible water footprint visual! Appreciate the feedback very much.

Doreen Ashton Wagner said...

These eye-popping numbers drive home the point, Shawna. Well done! I think event planners and participants should be reminded of the waste potential of events more frequently... then perhaps we wouldn't be so wasteful.

Shawna McKinley said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment Doreen. I was also thinking about the cost of the wasted food, too. For example, if baguettes were $1, that's almost $2500 thrown away, plus the cost of hauling (and that's a cheap baguette!). True it's just a metaphor, but describing it in those terms makes you stop and think about the cost impact, too.