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The land and water footprints of everyday products. Mind your step

Friends of the Earth commissioned environmental data analysts Trucost to estimate the total land and water footprint of seven generic everyday products: a cotton t-shirt, a smartphone, a cup of tea, a cup of coffee, a chicken curry ready meal, a pair of leather boots, and a chocolate bar. We also asked Trucost to estimate the company and sector footprints for three of the products (t-shirts, chocolate bars and smartphones) and the toy and game sector to gain an insight into the scale of resource demand generated by these products.

The results reveal the intensive resource demands of some products – a single smart phone for example requires 18m² of land and nearly 13,000 litres (13 tonnes) of water. With a billion smartphones sold worldwide in 2013, the smartphone industry uses a significant amount of water. But the findings also reveal the importance of looking at the different stages of the supply chain. A pair of leather boots requires 50m² of land and 25,000 litres of water, yet if the waste from the leather tanning process is treated in a waste treatment plant, water demand is reduced to 14,500 litres.  

The report explores the environmental footprints of everyday products, using a foot printing approach to measure the amount of land and water needed across the product’s supply chain.