The European Commission helps you take care of the planet

Summary

The European Commission has created two interactive, fun websites to help people, especially young people, visualise the impacts of their lifestyles on the planet, and provide advice to limit these impacts. One of them focuses on water consumption, an area where we have much to learn.

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In the wake of  World Water Day, we thought we would speak a bit more about the management of water resources, but this time from the consumers’ point of view. In fact, in a consumer society like ours, water is one of the many resources that is used – and sometimes exhausted – to fulfil our needs and wants. It is fairly easy to limit our own consumption at home, simply by developing a few reflexes (shorter showers, turning the tap off while brushing our teeth or washing our hands, putting the washing machine on only when it is full, etc.). But there are many elements to our water footprint, and most (around 96%, in fact), are indirect. This means that we have the greatest impact on water resources when we buy clothes, furniture, books or food, and not when we actually use water to wash or drink. This footprint is harder to reduce, first and foremost because it is difficult to know exactly how much water was used to make the things we use and the food we eat. This “hidden consumption” makes it all the more complicated to truly assess the impact of our behaviour. This has led the European Commission to launch a website called “Imagine all the water”, providing information on how much water is used to produce a pair of jeans, a steak, an apple, paper, a hamburger, etc. With meaningful equivalences (producing a sheet of paper uses as much water as watering a plant 65 times, for instance) and some information on water footprints, this intuitive platform aims to help us visualise how we contribute to the use of water resources. It also links to the Water Footprint online tool, where you can calculate your own impact, and gives advice on how to reduce it: mainly, by purchasing less clothes and shoes, buying food from local producers and choosing second-hand goods.

 

Going beyond water consumption

 

This website is actually part of Generation Awake, a wider initiative launched by the European Commission which strives to raise awareness of the environmental impact of consumption behaviour among the younger generation. Generation Awake is an interactive website that has you stroll around a house and meet characters that help you see what you can do to reduce your water consumption, your waste, how you can learn more about where your foods and favourite objects come from, etc. It provides extra information on an issue wider than “just” our water footprints: how do our habits impact the environment and its sustainability? As Water Maniac Walter and Impulse Inga, two members of the little family that inhabits the interactive house, put it:

Join Generation Awake and embrace a lifestyle where your consumer choices make a positive difference to everything you care about. Live the life you want, but enjoy it in balance with nature and the planet’s resources.

Now you have a few more tools to do just that.

(Photo: screenshot from www.generationawake.eu/en)