The California drought is fascinating. I am fascinated by it the way I am fascinated by a minor car accident. It's not that bad, I think. But that driver had better get things under control. So it is in California. Things are already more than minorly bad but unless the state's water hogs not only cease but reverse their habits, the coastal paradise could be in big trouble.
It's gotten so bad that someone built a droughtshaming app. I can't even, right? I think, How can people go on wasting precious resources even as daily news reports remind them how much worse it's getting? Of course, I forget that I contribute to the problem. I may not be watering my lawn to Kardashian-level lushness, but my food choices almost certainly aren't helping.
Recently, I've been thinking back to this interview I did with Lindsay Humes back in 2013. At the time, she said, "I’m a firm believer that my role as a consumer is more effective than I am as a voter." It was the first time that the concept of conscious consumerism truly resonated with me. That concept is a big part of the reason I'm trying to shop at farmers markets more these days. The food is local, so that means it's fresh and nice to the environment because it doesn't have to be shipped cross-country. The seasonality, community support and intimacy of knowing who grew the food is nice too, but it's not my main motivator.
Does that mean I'll stop eating foods from outside the Midwest? Does that mean I've eaten my last avocado? Of course not. But it means I'm thinking more about the impact my food purchases have on the places that produce them.
A recent article in the New York Times really helped me put that in perspective. It's authors estimated that the average Americans food choices amount to about 300 gallons of water per week in production. Yikes. I went through the piece to find the most severe water guzzling California-produced foods I eat. They are:
- Rice - 15.1 gallons for two ounces
- Processed tomatoes - 9.1 gallons for a bowl
- Eggs - 18 gallons for one egg
- Broccoli - 2.2 gallons for four florets
- Bread - 6.4 gallons for two slices
- Mandarin oranges - 42.5 gallons for three mandarins
- Milk - 143 gallons for four glasses
Which ones are on your list?