Food waste is a staggering problem. In 2010, close to 133 billion pounds, or a little over \$160 billion worth of food, wound up in U.S. landfills. "There's no benefit to wasting food," says Kai Olson-Sawyer, a senior research and policy analyst at GRACE Communications Foundation. It is an organization that highlights the relationship between food, water and energy resources.... < read more >
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Have you ever thought about the amount of water you waste when you throw out food? Do you think you would waste less food if you did?

Groups like the Water Footprint Network are trying to make people aware of how much water they waste when they throw out food. Why do you think these groups think this is such an important issue?

According to the article, some foods have larger water footprints than others. Do you think people should stop eating foods with bigger water footprints? Why or why not?

The article and diagram compare the amount of water wasted to bathtubs of water. Do you think this is good way to help people understand this issue? If so, why? If not, what would you do instead?

LESSON PLAN
Track a Personal Water Footprint

PROCESS:

1. As a class, review the diagram at the end of the article. Guide students to understand that the diagram shows the amount of water wasted when people toss out different kinds of foods.
2. Display the Water Footprint Network's personal water footprint calculator. As a class, calculate the water footprints of a man and a woman who live in the United States, are average meat consumers and have a gross yearly income of \$50,000. Compare the results.
3. Instruct students to select new data to enter into the calculator. Review their choices to make sure there are no repeats. Then have students tally their results. Note: For older students, you may wish to use the extended version of the personal calculator instead. For detailed instructions on how to complete this activity, see the grade-level lessons below.
4. Challenge students to create a diagram that illustrates their results in a way the average consumer can understand.

ASSESSMENT:

Invite students to share their diagrams with the class. Compare the results. Discuss how various factors impact the size of a person's water footprint.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Have the class complete the activity in small groups. Make sure each group has unique data to investigate. As a class, brainstorm ideas for diagrams that students could create to illustrate their results. Encourage each group to select the design it prefers.

Have students complete the activity with a partner. Make sure each pair has unique data to investigate. Challenge partners come up with their own ideas for a diagram that illustrates their results in a way the average consumer can understand.

Display the Water Footprint Network's personal calculator-extended. Explain that the purpose of this calculator is to help people assess their own unique water footprints. To illustrate how the calculator works, complete the personal calculator as a class to assess students' best guess of the average student's water footprint. If necessary, help students convert the amount of various foods eaten from kilograms into pounds. (One kilogram equals 2.2 pounds.) Then have students tally their own water usage for one week. Invite students to enter their data into the personal calculator to obtain their own water footprint. (NOTE: The last question on the calculator asks students to input their gross yearly income. To avoid divulging personal family information, you might want to have all students enter the same dollar amount.) Have students create a diagram that maps their individual results. As students present, compare their findings to students' "best guess" from one week before.

Display the Water Footprint Network's personal calculator-extended. Explain that the purpose of this calculator is to help people assess their own unique water footprints. Then have students tally their own water usage for one week. Invite students to enter their data into the personal calculator to obtain their own water footprint. If necessary, help students convert the amount of various foods eaten from kilograms into pounds. (One kilogram equals 2.2 pounds.) (NOTE: The last question on the calculator asks students to input their gross yearly income. To avoid divulging personal family information, you might want to have all students enter the same dollar amount.) Have students create a diagram that maps their individual results.

SMITHSONIAN RESOURCES
Settle Down: Turbidity and Water Quality
In this lesson, students learn about “water fitness” as they focus on the how turbidity affects water quality. Printable worksheets and links included.

Taking a Closer Look at Global Water Shortages
Read this Smithsonian article to learn how researchers aim to identify truly “water stressed” areas and help policy-makers better plan for the future.

How Did Water Come to Earth?
Read this Smithsonian article to learn how an out-of-this-world arrival provided the perfect chemical combination for water to fill our planet.

Water: H2O = Life
Explore this exhibition from the American Museum of Natural History to learn how water shapes our planet and why it is essential to life as we know it.

Water, Water Everywhere
Follow this teacher-created lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum to have students design a watering system for a school garden.
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