The other day, someone told me it takes 30 gallons of water to make a single ketchup packet. Of course, I had to wonder if that’s true. On the other hand, knowing how much water it takes just to make a pound of beef, anything seems possible. If this is indeed true, I wonder if it is the ketchup or the plastic that uses all the water?
That led me to thinking (always dangerous)… what if we lived in a futuristic Blade-Runner type world, where access to information and databases was built into little chips in our eyes, with a heads-up kind of display that could identify the water, energy, petroleum, and greenhouse gas usage required to make any food item or other product just as we were considering buying it. How would this change people’s purchasing habits?
Judging by present-day Americans, lots of people just wouldn’t bother to worry about it. For those who did care, I could see it going two ways. Either the wasteful products would be shunned, causing manufacturers to clean up their act (most likely saving production costs in the process), or the wasteful products would be seen as signs of luxury and a way of flaunting one’s wealth, in which case their prices might increase. This would be especially likely if these items were taxed according to the true energy and resource use required to make them, which would become possible with the information available.
With the way the world is going, I can imagine that someday we may need to ration water, petroleum use, and emissions of greenhouse gas. In another grim sci-fi scenario, each citizen might have allotments of these environmental goods that they could spend on various products. Markets for trading of these allotments might develop, and a family might save up to splurge on something special, like a plane trip (or a steak dinner).
Though it sounds restrictive, something like this would almost be required to break us of our consumption overload and return the world to a more sustainable lifestyle. Let’s just hope people come to their senses (and information comes to the rescue) before it’s forced upon us…