I think I mention this every year, autumn is my favorite season. I’ve always been a fan of cold weather anyway, and while those cooler temperatures can be elusive in Southern California, that doesn’t stop me from getting a little thrill of excitement when I come across signifiers of the changing of the season.
Take, for example, pumpkin spice. Every year, it seems that more and more products come in pumpkin spice varieties: lattes, lotions, pancakes, cheesecake, and more. Bad news for pumpkin spice fanatics: the flavor rarely comes from anywhere natural. Assuming all those products were spiced with an actual pumpkin, though, what would be their virtual water impact? Pumpkins, like all squash, require 2 gallons of water to produce one ounce of “meat.”
Another fall favorite of mine is apple cider. To this day, I remember the scent that would greet me first thing in the morning after mom brewed her spices overnight: honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and something extra that seemed to just say “hey, it’s fall.” While the virtual water footprint of individual spices can be hard to calculate, the cider itself runs at about 230 liters per glass. This is, in part, because of the processing that goes into turning apples into cider – if you were to eat that apple straight, you’d only be consuming 125 liters.
My next favorite fall association doesn’t have anything to do with what we eat, unless, of course of course, you’re a horse. Hay has a scent that just seems to announce that summer is gone and winter is on its way. While people don’t eat hay, we do decorate with it, which is bad news that California uses billions of gallons of water each year on alfalfa agriculture alone.
Of course, if there’s one seasonal tradition that is more or less synonymous with autumn, it’s the changing of the leaves. The good thing about this practice is that it literally costs nothing – trees will change colors all on their own. Or at least, they will as long as they’re not dead first. Hopefully everyone has been employing greywater methods to keep their lawns irrigated through the summer so that the fall changes will be all the more noticeable.
So break out the sweaters and the cider, because this November, I’m falling for fall.