Contributed by Jennifer Dawson

Around 40% of food in the United States goes to waste every year — that’s around 400 pounds of food annually per person. And, since food also has a water footprint, water waste is also intertwined with food waste. In fact, the average individual in the U.S. wastes at least 26,500 gallons of water every year simply by throwing away beef, eggs, apples, lettuce, almonds, and apples. Fortunately, dehydrating food is a great way to prevent food waste, and, in turn, drastically decrease water waste.

Food’s shocking water footprint

Water footprints — the volume of water required to grow, produce, and transport food — vary between food items. Meat and dairy, in particular, typically have the highest water footprints. According to the World Economic Forum, one kilo of beef uses 15,415 liters of water to produce, while one kilo of nuts requires 9,063 liters. Fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, generally have lower water footprints, requiring 962 and 322 liters of water per kilo respectively. Specifically, a head of romaine lettuce has a water footprint of 29 gallons, while one egg has one of 52 gallons. And, when it comes to the most water-efficient food to eat, cereals are one of the best choices — one kilo-calorie requires just 0.51 liters. When considering the average food waste generated by each household annually (64 eggs, eleven pounds of beef, and eight lettuces), this equates to 5,260 gallons of water for the eggs, 19,800 gallons for the beef, and 92 gallons for the lettuce.

Dehydrated food: the solution to water waste

When it comes to fighting general water waste, a multi-pronged approach is key. For example, better landscaping is a simple yet effective solution — 50% of water used outdoors is wasted due to poor irrigation. In-ground irrigation systems, in particular, ensure only the precise amount of water needed by the landscape is used. When it comes to preventing food-related water waste, dehydrated food can play a key role. So, for example, if you’re stuck with overripe berries, don’t throw them out! Instead, try turning them into delicious fruit leather: all you need to do is puree the berries and add applesauce before dehydrating the mixture. Any other fruit that’s about to go bad (like browning bananas) can also be dehydrated and turned into healthy snacks or toppings for oatmeal, yogurt, and ice cream.

Importance of correct storage

Your efforts to prevent water waste with dehydrated foods may easily be for nothing if you don’t store your goodies correctly. So, store your dehydrated foods in airtight containers in a cool, dark space. Keep in mind, the shelf life of dehydrated food differs depending on the food. The higher the moisture content, the shorter the shelf life. While most dehydrated food should be good for about a year if stored correctly, meat and fish may only last a few months.

Dehydrated food can play an important role in preventing water waste. By dehydrating old or unwanted food, instead of tossing it out, as well as storing your creations correctly, you can minimize water waste and have a positive impact on the planet.