Authors / Editors:
Thomas M. Kostigen
Water and Wastewater
New York Times best-selling author Thomas M. Kostigen provides simple, unique, and empowering solutions that create huge savings and can make a big difference in shoring up water supplies at home and around the world.
In The Green Blue Book, you’ll find hundreds of simple tips for water savings in the home, garden, office, and when on the go that will help you make a difference without making big changes in your life.
Thomas Kostigen shows how to save water not just by turning off the tap, but through discovering “virtual water,” or the water embedded in the products we use every day. By making better decisions about which food, clothes, and household necessities to use, each of us can save thousands of gallons of water—and help avert the water crisis unfolding around the globe.
With breakthrough research, humor, entertaining facts, and a hopeful message, The Green Blue Book shows how, drop-by-drop, water-saving adds up.
'Excuse me, bartender. The beer you just served me had 20 gallons of water in it.' You might be thought drunk if you said that, but it’s true.
The water we are talking about here is virtual, or imbedded water. It’s calculated by totaling all the water it takes to grow, raise, or manufacture something; it’s the water we don’t see in all the things we drink, eat, wear, and use in our lives. Turns out that this unseen water drains our supplies more than the water that’s right before our eyes. Think of it this way: When you toss out that cup of cold coffee in the bottom of the pot, you’re actually tossing out 590 cups; it takes that much water (37 gallons, to put it another way) to grow the coffee beans needed for just that 1 cup.
Most of the water you 'drink' actually comes hidden in the food you buy. Agriculture is the number one consumer of freshwater in the world, accounting for about 70 percent of its use. And most of the crops we raise, we eat.
Our biggest effect on the world’s water supply, therefore, can be waged in making dietary choices. Please note that I’m not saying you’ve got to disavow the foods you like—we still have lots of choices. I’m just pointing out that by choosing what we eat a little more wisely, we can lessen the demand for some water-intensive foods and help shore up water supplies. For example, swap a hamburger for a veggie burger just once and you will save about 750 gallons of water. A simple substitution here and there can add up to a whole lot of water savings.
This is why it helps to know how much water is in what.
Being smart about where we grow things and crating demand for foods that require less irrigation are ways to save water—and save lives. And they can save in more ways than just those: What’s good for water conservation typically is also good for other ecological issues—as well as economic issues. While we are lowering our virtual water footprints, we also are lowering our carbon footprints. So it’s important to learn who, what, where, and how something is grown or produced. This type of knowledge can also help us make healthier choices about what we buy.
This is how the trade flow of virtual water can help the overall water flow: a country with a lot of water grows water-intensive crops, which countries with scarce water supplies than import, allowing them to save their own water supplies.
An arid country such as Jordan in the Middle East saves as much as 90 percent of its domestic water supply by importing water-intensive products. Many third world countries deplete almost their entire water supplies just trying to grow food, making disease and dying of thirst a daily reality for too many people.
Better management of virtual water can help. Virtual water management has already saved 5 percent of the water used in agricultural production. And now that the USDA requires most foods to have labels listing their country of origin, it’s easier to make that water-smart choice by picking a water-intensive product that was produced in a water-rich region.
But being smart isn’t just about the food we purchase, it’s also about the food we waste.
Up to half of all the food we grow never hits our plates (or our bellies). Now think about all the water that went into that food’s harvesting, production, processing, transportation, and storage. Add to that all the food that we toss out—food that is the third most common type of refuse found in landfills, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency—and we have a lot of wasted water. Although we’re talking about virtual water, the ramifications are just as real as if we were to let the tub overflow.
Buying the right foods in the right-size portions can trim our water diet plenty, to say nothing of the health benefits that will likely ensue—for both ourselves and the planet.
Thomas M. Kostigen is the author of The Green Blue Book: The Simple Water Savings Guide to Everything in Your Life (Rodale) out on World Water Day. In The Green Blue Book he explains the breakthrough concept of Virtual Water and how redirecting our daily actions can shore up the world’s water supply. He is the author of You Are Here: Exposing the Vital Link Between What We Do and What That Does to Our Planet (HarperOne), and coauthor of The New York Times bestseller The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time (Crown/Three Rivers Press).
Kostigen’s standing within the environmental community allows him access to trends, insight, information, and validation that in turn help readers better understand and live with a changing planet. He weaves a thread of practicality through all of his books providing breakthrough first-hand research and shocking but true facts he has uncovered along with hundreds of easy solutions for readers to adopt into their daily lives.
He pens the popular Ethics Monitor column for Dow Jones MarketWatch and hosts the weekly “Saints & Sinners” broadcast for The Wall Street Journal Digital network and the Westwood One radio network, featured in 225 markets. He regularly contributes to Discover magazine and National Geographic Adventure, among numerous other publications.
A longtime journalist, Kostigen has reported from the world’s natural wonders to war zones around the globe. Known as an “intrepid activist,” Kostigen’s mission is to provide people with “on-the-ground” accounts of the way the world is today and then arm them with solutions to make it better.
He speaks at forums and conferences internationally and combines environmental science with a lively sense of practicality and mainstream pop culture.
Kostigen is on the board of Jacques Cousteau’s Blue Legacy organization, and is a member of numerous others, including Water for People, the Rainforest Action Network, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Liberty Hill. He is regularly quoted in the press and has appeared on numerous national television and radio shows.