We could all use a bit of luck in our lives.  Whether it’s watching our favorite sports team go into playoffs, crossing our fingers that our boss thinks well of us when it’s time for our next performance review, or watching a news report about the latest storm or earthquake and hoping it misses our home and those of our loved ones, there are plenty of things in this life we have limited control over, and hoping for good luck is the best we can do to better our circumstances.

Some people take the whole luck thing an extra step beyond just hoping, however.  Some people actually carry lucky charms, hoping that possessing some item imbued with the idea of luck will bring them fortune in their lives.  Today, I’ll look at some good luck charms and the virtual water footprint associated with them.

Nothing says “luck” quite like a four-leaf clover.  While clover leaves naturally have three leaves, an occasional mutation will produce an aberrant extra leaf.  This unlikely mutation is infrequent enough to be considered a sign of good luck.  How unlikely?  About 1 in 10,000 clovers have four leaves.  In terms of virtual water, clover uses even more water than grass.  Assuming their footprints are comparable, producing a single four-leaf clover (and the accompanying 9,999 normal clovers) would take 9 liters of water, which is pretty water-wise, all-told.  Those four-leaf clovers may actually be lucky!

How about those “lucky rabbit’s paws” we often see attached to keychains at mall kiosks or gas station check-out lines.  Besides the fact that it must be a very unlucky rabbit indeed to lose its feet, what do these products have to do with water usage?  Good news for the rabbit: most “rabbit’s feet” are artificial, made of latex and fake fur.  Specifically, they’re made of about an ounce-and-a-half of latex, which is a petrochemical.  Without knowing the exact manufacturing process for the rabbit’s foot and assuming the footprint is similar to that of plastic, we’re looking at about two gallons of water, or 7 and a half liters just for the filling in the rabbit’s foot.

It’s not only Western culture that has its traditions related to luck.  In Chinese and Vietnamese culture, New Years is celebrated with the exchange of red envelopes containing small bills.  The money isn’t the real key to the tradition, though: it’s the luck the recipient gains from the envelope itself.  Different red envelopes come in all sizes and shapes, but for each sheet of paper used, you’re looking at a footprint of three gallons for an equivalent-sized envelope.   And that’s before you even look at the red dye.

When I think luck, there’s usually a pot of gold and a rainbow involved.  The good news about rainbows is that they can be enjoyed by all without cost to anyone.  These bows are actually a reflection from water droplets still in the atmosphere after a rainfall, so maybe we should consider every storm a good luck symbol.

Of course, no discussion of lucky charms is complete without a discussion of, well, Lucky Charms.  Calculating the virtual water footprint of a product like this can be tricky, because we don’t know the exact ingredients or ratios they’re added to the final product.  Each individual cereal will vary, as well as variances from factory to factory making the same cereal.  If we look just at the grains used as the building blocks for cereal, however, we can assume 1,222 liters of water per kilogram of grain. An average 100 gram bowl of cereal would use 122 liters of water before processing.  We recommend you stick with the real rainbows and the clovers.