water Program

Water Saving Tips: Food Choices

Water use can be direct, for example when you turn on the tap or flush the toilet. But water use can also be indirect for producing the goods and services you buy, use and consume every day (this is also known as virtual water).  It takes a lot of water to produce and transport the all the fruit, vegetables, processed foods and, particularly, the meat and dairy that you eat every day.

Read on to learn how to save water by changing how and what you consume and wasting less (be sure to check out our tips specifically for the kitchen and recycling), and take our Water Footprint Calculator to find out how much water you use directly and indirectly each day. 

Eating Lower on the Food Chain

  • Eat less meat and dairy because it takes an enormous amount of water, more than other foods, to produce animal products. This is because livestock and poultry in the US eat large amounts of water-intensive feed – often corn and soybeans.
  • Try Meatless Monday and eat vegetarian one day a week. It could significantly lower your water footprint.
  • Eat more fruit, vegetables, leafy greens (e.g., spinach and kale) and whole grains because it takes less water to produce lightly processed or whole foods. 
  • Learn more about the water in your food.
  • Consider what you eat, not only for your health, but also for the way it’s raised or grown. More sustainable food production could lower your foods’ water footprint and your overall environmental impact.
  • Drink one less cup of coffee per day, or substitute tea instead if you’re a caffeine lover, since coffee has one of the highest water footprints per pound.

Processed Foods

  • Eat less processed food like snack chips, premade meals, candy and soda, because more water is required to produce them using the basic food ingredients they’re derived from. Learn more about the water in your food.
  • “Process” your own whole foods for on-the-go snacks by chopping up fresh fruit and vegetables, making your own trail mix with dried fruit and nuts, or mashing up (with a food processor) beans with olive oil and seasoning for hummus or dip.

Sustainable Shopping and Cooking

  • Find out what sustainable food is, where to buy it and even how to grow your own.
  • Find good food with the Eat Well Guide, a directory of over 25,000 sustainable family farms, restaurants, farmers' markets, grocery stores and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs in the United States and Canada.
  • Explore the treasure trove of great recipes that use sustainable ingredients from Sustainable Table

Food Waste

  • Plan your meals so you only buy what you need and not more. In the US, we waste about 40 percent of our total food supply every year, which also wastes 25 percent of all freshwater consumed annually.
  • Cook and eat what you buy. Food ingredients are not for looking but for cooking, so go ahead and make something delicious with even the most random assortment of ingredients lurking in your kitchen.
  • Eat leftovers! If you want a change of pace, learn how to cook smart and turn leftovers into a new meal.
  • If you do have food scraps or unwanted leftovers, learn how and where you can compost to keep it out of the landfills. 
  • Learn more about composting.

Pet Food

  • Make your own pet food, then you can control the quality and amount of ingredients (and the water footprint). If you can’t make your own, read the labels on the packaging to find out what’s in the food you’re feeding your pets. Talk with your veterinarian to determine if there are any specific nutritional needs.
  • Learn more about making your own dog food.
  • Buy sustainably made products like hemp dog toys, collars and leashes.
  • Reuse, repair and shop less for animal products. Animals don’t care about appearances. Reuse things like collars, leashes, bowls and toys so you don’t have to buy new items.


Learn more about saving water in other areas of your home.