Water footprint next environmental measure


The importance of water as a scarce resource is being reflected in the next environmental measure – water footprints:

Water footprints seem to be taking over from carbon footprints at the Water New Zealand Conference in Rotorua today.

While the production of a cup of coffee consumes a startling 140 litres of water, a pair of leather shoes consumes 8,000, the production of a single litre of bio-ethanol can consume between 1,200 and 3,000 litres of water, Professor Torkil Jonch Clausen, Chair Programme Committee, World Water Week in Stockholm and Adviser to Sweden’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment told the Water New Zealand conference in Rotorua this morning.

Water footprints

Product Water consumed (litres)
1 cup of coffee 140
1 glass of milk 200
1 litre bio-ethanol 1200 – 3000
1 cotton tee shirt 2000
1 hamburger 2400
1 pair leather shoes 8000

His message to the conference was that water is an increasingly scarce world resource and those countries who are blessed with abundant supplies of water, like New Zealand, are very fortunate.

This might be good for New Zealand but no doubt the measure will be clouded by emotion rather than based on science, as carbon footprints are.

Conserving any resource is sensible but a water footprint is a blunt instrument. Using 140 litres for a cup of coffee in a desert could be more wasteful than using 8000 litres for leather shoes in a region where water is plentiful.

Tuesday’s answers


Monday’s questions were:

1. What is this crop?


2. Who said “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject”?

3. Who wrote the Alex quartet?

4. Which is the highest state highway in New Zealand?

5. What is an anaphora?

Tuesday’s answers follow the break.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cleaner without kids


You could almost feel sorry for the Green Party over the reaction to their population policy.

Except that like a lot of other Green initiatives, in spite of no doubt worthy intentions, it’s got lots of fish hooks and I’ll confess one of the reasons I took the bait was because it reminded me of the campaign by green (though not necessarily Green) people against disposable napkins.

Let me start with a confession: I used disposable nappies.

 When I say used I don’t mean wore because I don’t think they were invented until I was long past needing them. What I mean is, I used them for my children.

In mitigation I’ll add that for the first two it was only when we went out that I exchanged reusable cloth nappies for the convenience of disposables. With the third it was necessity which persuaded me to give up on the cotton ones because he had a brain disorder. That left him incontinent and by the time he was two the old cloth and safety pins just couldn’t cope with his bowel and bladder capacity so I turned to disposables which could.

Napkins are one of the things people like to kid you about when you’re pregnant but once the baby arrives you just do what has to be done with them and I never considered that to be worthy of debate.

However, that was before I came across no fewer than five separate articles in the space of a few weeks which did their best to convince me otherwise.

By the time I got to the end of the fifth diatribe I was beginning to think that choosing to drape my babies’ bottoms in disposables I was commiting a major crime against the environment.

My conscience was eased a little by a single contribution of the contrary viewpoint which sought to convince me that with everything involved in growing, harvesting and processing the cotton and turning it into napkins plus the water, power and soap powder used in washing them, cloth nappies might be even less kind on the environment that disposables.

However, my relief was short lived because these counter-arguments were made by a representative of the company which makes disposables and while I didn’t doubt his sincerity I couldn’t ignore the suspicion that the claims he made could be influenced to some degree by self-interest.

But even if he was biased, there was still some truth in the environmental impact of cloth nappies so either way I couldn’t win.

If I used reusables I wasted natural resources but so did disposables and that also left the problem of disposal because in spite of what their name implies one of the problems with disposables is their disposability, or lack of it.

Not that I ever thought about such things when deciding which nappies to use because whether I used cloth or disposables had nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with my children’s comfort and my convenience.

Once my son died I no longer had to worry about napkins, but the arguments are still raging – and each time I come across them I wonder if they do because it is women who are still much more likely to be involved in the purchase, use, laundering or disposal of napkins? Isn’t there something predominantly used by men which is equally problematic?

Obviously the environment would be better off without any napkins but until someone designs people who are born with the control which makes them unnecessary maybe anyone with the best interests of a clean, green world at heart would just be better not to have babies at all.

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