I usually try to stick to the facts in this blog, but today, I’m going to make a subjective statement, but I’m pretty confident that any sane person would agree with me: Halloween is the best. We all love wearing costumes, decorating our homes, freaking ourselves out with scary movies, and of course, trick-or-treating. Even if you’re too old for the house-to-house visits, this is the best time of year to buy discount chocolate and candy corn and gorge yourself before hitting the haunted houses.
So, today I’m going to look at common ingredients in candy, and their virtual water impact. I’m not going to look at specific candy-bar brands, in part because they usually contain hard to identify chemicals, but also because the information in this post should be useful in all your sweet-tooth inducing shopping, including the baking of Thanksgiving pies, Christmas cookies, and general holiday sweets.
To begin with, let’s revisit an older post: way back in the spring, I posted that chocolate needs 24,000 liters of virtual water just to make a kilogram. Kind of puts the damper on trick-or-treating, doesn’t it? Chocolate’s way worse than caramel, which is made from caramelized sugar. Sugar uses 1500 liters per kilogram produced, so that’s way more virtual-water conscious than chocolate. Finally, candy often incorporates peanuts, nuts, and peanut butter. A kilogram of groundnuts needs 3,100 gallons of virtual water. So, to summarize, caramel is better than groundnuts, which are better than chocolate.
Another favorite of mine is gummies. Unfortunately, whether your chosen gummy comes in the form of bears, worms, or some other shape, they’re made of gelatin, a meat product. As I mentioned in an earlier post, chicken uses about 4,000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of meat, and beef uses a whopping 15,500 to produce a single kg. Depending on what brand of gelatin you use, you could be looking at a massive amount of virtual water, and that’s not counting the dyes and flavors that transform gross, plain gelatin into delicious candies.
Let’s take a look at one final form of candy: hard candies. Whether butterscotch discs or Jolly Ranchers, a devoted kid can work a piece of hard candy for ten minutes of bliss, or can crunch down for a momentary intense burst of sweetness. Hard candy is made from sugar, corn syrup, and flavors and colorings (you can make your own with this recipe). Unlike caramel, which can be made from straight sugar, hard candy’s corn syrup requires 108 gallons of water for just a pound of corn, and that’s before the processing that transforms corn to syrup.
Of course, nobody wants to be that house that hands out toothbrushes, so how can you enjoy trick-or-treating while remaining water-conscious? As always, homemade will save more water than store-bought, and careful selection of your recipes can be water conservation-friendly. When I was a kid, I always loved the houses that gave out popcorn balls. If you’re not the crafty type, consider handing out small bottles of bubble solution or fun-shaped soaps. Whatever you do, now you can remove one source of fear from your Halloween: let the virtual water of your treats hold no terror for you!