Is blue the new green? Part I

Our planet is called the blue planet because its surface is covered with water by 70 %. The human body consists by 72 % of water. Without water we can’t live. Water is used for energy, food and transport so whoever controls water controls the world.  Nature however is the true master and very now and then we are reminded by her power when a little snow stops our technological society from functioning or a Tsunami devastates a whole country. Reason enough to look at water consumption in the context of eco friendliness, both, on private and professional level.

When we talk about water we have to distinguish between real and virtual water consumption. The virtual-water content of a product is the volume of freshwater used to produce the product, measured at the place where the product was actually produced (production-site definition) or the volume of water that would have been required to produce the product at the place where the product is consumed (consumption-site definition). The real-water content of products is generally negligible if compared to the virtual-water content.

German national water footprint

In the past years, the water use in German households as well as in the industrial sector has declined constantly. This trend is very welcome and has to be encouraged in the future. But this amount of water only represents a small portion of the total water the Germans consume on a daily basis.

The total water footprint of German consumers is 159.5 cubic kilometres of water per year. With a population of currently 82.2 million, each citizen consumes 5,288 litres of water each day, and only a small portion of it for drinking, cooking or other household activities.

The biggest amount of this water is hidden in the food or products that are consumed each day. About half of the German agricultural water footprint is made up by imported products or food. That means that by importing those goods, water in virtual form was also imported from the producing countries. Germany has thereby left its water footprint in those countries. The imported goods with the highest water footprint are – in descending order – coffee, cocoa, oilseeds, cotton, pork, soybeans, beef, milk, nuts and sunflowers. The biggest water footprint of Germany is left in Brazil, Ivory Coast, France, the Netherlands, the USA, Indonesia, in Ghana, India, Turkey and Denmark respectively, also in descending order.

If you want to know more about the water footprint of nations, check out this report and this website

Blue living

Private persons can reduce their water footprint by changing diet and lifestyle. Using less water in direct consumption, consuming less (or preferably no) meat, wearing clothes made by organic cotton… You heard all this in one of my previous blog posts and you’ll realize that consuming less “blue” means being more “green”. In order to get a feeling for the amounts of (direct and indirect) water consumption throughout your daily life and because a picture often says more than a thousand words, have a look at this infographic

If you would like to see more examples for the amount of water consumed in the production of everyday food products, you have to see the poster by the German designer Timm Kekeritz. It was created in 2007 in Berlin. For all i-Phone users: you can even get an app based on the data used for this poster. (For more information on the poster and the app, check out )



In the next week, we will look at the professional level and see how companies are using water and what they can do about the current problems.


About SparklinGesine

20 year-old girly girl from the eastern part of Germany, now studying at the Berlin School of Economics and Law. Loves music, cinema and this fancy invention called "internet". View all posts by SparklinGesine

3 responses to “Is blue the new green? Part I

  • natiliab

    Dear Gesine,
    Once again another great post because you have chosen a very unique and interesting topic!
    I have never thought about the virtual consumption of water. But it is obvious that with every piece we eat or differently consume we use water. I think that many people (like me) are not aware of that fact. Water consumption can only be reduced if people get to know about virtual consumption of water. In my opinion, it is not enough anymore to write the amount of calories, carbohydrates and sugar on the wrapping of food. CO2 emission and water consumption (real and virtual) should be includes as well in the list of nutrition information.

    On youtube I found a very interesting video that shows the relation of water and finishd products:

    Keep up with the good work!!

  • itjessica

    Hi Gesine!

    Very informative Post – Thank you! =) I like the way how you link business topics with our environment! I think it is really a big problem of our modern society that we often take everything for granted and start more and more to forget about our “mother earth” which provides us with the basis for our living. Sometimes it is necessary to be reminded that we can not control nature with technology and that we have no super-power that subjects nature to our personal wills… Especially huge companies often seem to forget that important little detail – and sometimes only catastrophes like the big earthquake in Japan at the beginning of the year can bring people back down to earth in a very brutal way!
    Especially water consumption is a topic people often underestimate. Everyone knows that water is the foundation of living and that there are huge parts in the world where it is a scarce resource but still we often don’t realise how much of it we are actually consuming and how wastefully we often do so. Thanks for reminding us! =)

  • Julia J.

    Dear Gesine,

    Your topic is one of the most current issues, an issue that will play a central role in our future especially. The picture was a really good choice. It really represents your topic. I liked that you told us about water footprints and the differences between real and virtual water consumption. I did not know about it before. Though, you write in a very descriptive way. It would be cool if there were some references or citations from authors/bloggers who deal with the same topic. I honestly like your article. It is very interesting for me but I don’t see the connection between IT and business yet. Maybe in the second part about it :)? I will look at it definitely!

    Thank you!!

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