As a Midwest girl, I grew up with a real meat-and-potatoes style diet.  When I saw what sort of virtual water impact the traditional Western diet can carry, I resolved to reduce the amount of meat I eat.  In short, virtual water refers to the water used to produce your food, clothes, and every other product.  The longer the chain of production, the more water a product uses.  So if you’re eating something straightforward, like a locally grown carrot, the virtual water you eat is just the water used to irrigate the carrot.  If you’re eating a burger, you’re looking at the impact of the grain the cow ate, the water the cow drank, and the gas used to transport the cow to the slaughterhouse and then to the store – and it adds up a lot quicker.  Throw in unnatural processing steps, and something as simple as a bag of potato chips - forget about it.

So we can deduce that cooking your own food using natural ingredients – especially vegetarian ingredients – will be the friendliest choice in terms of virtual water.  And while this meat and potatoes girl is giving up her meat, I still love my potatoes – especially when I know a whole kg of potatoes only needs 500 liters of water to grow (and trust me, that’s good).

So, I present to you: my mom’s creamy mashed potato recipe, guaranteed to always be a crowd pleaser.




8-10 potatoes

1 cup milk

6 T butter


Chop potatoes into quarters.  Add to pot of boiling water until soft (about 30 minutes).  Strain.

In mixing bowl, mix potatoes, milk, butter, and salt and pepper to taste.  Beat with electric mixer until desired consistency.


Makes 4-6 servings.

Virtual water use: 750 liters

Virtual water per serving: 125-188 liters