Last week, we looked at the virtual water footprint of some of the fattiest, unhealthiest fast foods out there. Our basic premise was that unhealthy-for-your-body foods are also unhealthy-for-your-planet. Of course, we didn’t get through each of the fifteen unhealthy foods, so we’re back – with a vengeance.
Let’s talk about the Taco Bell XXL Grilled Beef Stuft Burrito. It will assault your stomach as much as it assaults proper spelling – it includes beef, cheese, rice, beans, sour cream, guacamole, ranch, and pico de gallo. The quarter pound of beef requires 1,748 liters of water (assuming that it is, indeed, beef.) 1/8 cup of cheese has 45 liters, 1/8 cup rice has 57.75 liters and ¼ cup beans needs only 2.68 gallons, or 10 liters. Assuming the virtual water footprint of sour cream and ranch are both comparable to milk, we’re looking at 600.75 liters for just two tablespoons of sour cream and another 600.75 for the ranch. The two tablespoons of guacamole need only 10 liters, and the 2 tablespoons of tomatoes (for the pico de gallo) is 8.9 liters. All together, the burrito comes out to 3,081.15 liters – or the equivalent of a five and a half hour long shower.
Taco Bell has another entry on the list in their Cinnabon Delights – fried balls of dough coated in cinnamon and sugar and filled with frosting. Each delight weighs 12 grams. Assuming half the weight is the dough, we’re looking at 6.43 liters of water (assuming cinnabon dough is roughly equivalent to bread dough.) Frosting is made of equal parts butter and sugar, so we’re looking at 3 grams of butter (16.66 liters) and 3 grams sugar (5.35 liters). Each ball then comes out to only 28.44 liters of water, but given that Taco Bell sells these guys in twelve-packs (and if you’re going to look at the world’s unhealthiest foods, let’s assume you’re ordering and eating the largest quantity available), so the full order then comes out to 341.28 liters.
How about our next item, Subway’s Foot-Long Spicy Italian Sub? While Subway’s entire marketing is built on the customer’s ability to customize their sandwiches, I’ll use this handy-dandy Subway calorie counter to pick the fattiest options for the sub. All of the portions are given in 6-inch quantities, so we’ll be doubling their count. The fattiest bread is Italian Herbs and Cheese, which has 260.5 liters. The two servings of pepperoni /salami blend are 36 grams (which has the same virtual water footprint as pork), so 215.57 liters. The 30 grams of cheddar cheese then, use 95.34 liters, and the sandwich altogether costs you 571.41 liters of water.
Up next is the Chop’t Cobb Salad Sandwich. In spite of the word “salad” in there, this one’s a doozy: chicken, avocado, bacon, egg, tomatoes, and lettuce. There are three ounces of chicken (367.74 liters), 2 ounces of avocado (33.5 liters), one ounce of bacon (169.76 liters), three ounces of tomato (18.2 liters) and half a pound of lettuce (53.75 liters). That adds up to 642.95 liters in your sandwich.
How about everyone’s favorite comfort food? Panera’s mac and cheese comes in small and large portion sizes, the large weighing in at 2 cups. Since 2 cups of pasta without sauce is the same size as 2 cups of pasta with sauce, we’ll calculate the impact of two cups of pasta – 4 ounces uncooked, or 209.67 liters. A cheese sauce is half milk and half cheese and assuming a 4:1 pasta to sauce ratio (admitted a number I completely made up), we’re looking at 1/8 cup of milk and 1/8 cup of cheese. Or, 29.57 (milk) + 47.67 (cheese), plus the pasta’s virtual water, and we’re looking at a bowl full of 286.91 liters for that mac and cheese.
Is the thought of all that wasted water just making your stomach churn? (Or maybe you’re just a bit queasy from the fat, carbs, and sugar that are loaded onto every item we examined this week). Whatever the case, just remember that every drop counts when it comes to water conservation, and knowing what it took to get that burger to your mouth is the first step to being a water-wise(r) consumer.