Hold the Crickets?

It’s been a busy weekend!

I had Friday off, and I managed to get quite a bit done! I helped move new couches into our house; orchestrate a fiasco that caused Mme. Ross to realize that we were never going to get the old couch into the upstairs den; then I helped get rid of the old couches. They went to a nice couple who just moved here from Montana, who thought fee couches were pretty cool. I got all the carpeting and padding that Mme. Ross tore up from the first floor and stairs of our house picked up from the side of the house where she had put it and staged it in one of the garage doors to be dragged out the night before garbage day on our upcoming Spring cleaning week. Today, we worked together to get the windows in our living room to open for the first time since we moved in; I even got to go running both Friday and Saturday, and I did all of this while listening to podcasts.

🙂  <– This smiley face means I’m happy.

Some of my to-dos got moved, however. Taking down the DirecTV dish on our roof? I’m pretty sure I can pay someone else to do that and not risk falling to my untimely demise. Cutting back the lilac by the lamppost? Well . . . it turns out Mme. Ross agrees that it doesn’t need to be so big. Next week, I’m buying a chainsaw and taking that f***er down a few notches.

We think of Spring as a time to organize, rearrange, open the curtains and let the sunlight do some disinfecting for us; but also it’s a time to take out the old and bring in the new. For example, our new couches were someone’s old couches. Even though they were beautiful, they could not have gone to waste and we were glad to buy them for a song. We passed down our booger-encrusted couches to someone who was glad to take them for free.

But what happens when something hits the end of the line?

That’s what they made Spring cleanup week for, isn’t it? We put everything on the curb that we’re not allowed to put out during the rest of the year (even if some of us do) and it gets carried off to the dump. Our carpet is a great example of that. I hate carpet with a passion — although it feels great on the toes — because it’s got a way of trapping dirt, dust, and allergens over time. If you wanted proof of that then you should have seen the amount of dirt, dust, and sand that was built up underneath those carpets when Mme. Ross tore them out; the sheer volume of it could have choked an elephant.

So of course it’s getting thrown out. Part of me feels guilty about that because energy was put into making the carpet, and now it’s going to be buried for who knows how long, until natural geological forces can return it to the Earth (arguably, the padding was breaking down at a faster rate.)

Remember when our carbon footprint was a big deal? It’s something that picked up less than a decade ago — they talked about how much energy it took to create this, that, and the other thing, and how our lives would be measured in that — how the costs we paid would be measured in that. Back then, UPS started charging their customers a surcharge to offset their carbon footprint because of that, but today I’m suddenly wondering where all that hubbub went because of a podcast I had been listening to.

It was Science Friday, PRI’s weekly rundown of science news, hosted by Ira Flatow. If you’ve seen that episode of The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon makes an ass of himself on public radio, this is the show I’m referring to. Ira ends the second hour of this week’s episode with this little idea to chew on:

. . . the California drought is forcing . . . all of us who enjoy their produce to think about how our eating habits might affect the water situation out west, because that hamburger you’re having tonight? It costs about 1,700 gallons of water per pound of protein. You’d rather switch to a porkchop? 700 gallons a pound. “Ah, but I’m going to go with a chicken, that’s gotta be better.” Well, a little bit: 250 gallons a pound. And if you think vegetarian sources of protein are much better, those chickpeas used to make your falafel and hummus? They suck up 1,200 gallons of water per pound of protein. . . . I want to propose a much more water-friendly option . . crickets, checking in at just one gallon of water per pound.

As it turns out, there’s a new concept on the horizon. One that’s already being formulated and that will soon be foisted upon us as the new metric that we should be watching closely. It’s the new conservation: forget turning your lights off when you leave, since you have LED light bulbs. Forget turning off your computer or your TV, since they will automatically go to sleep. Now, we have to be concerned about our use of water.

I’m not making fun of this issue: it takes a lot of water for one person to live a modern life, and if you were to see how much water you actually use, you might question how it is that you use so much more than that. Do you let the water run while you’re lathering your hands with soap? Does every opening of the commode invite a flush at the end? Do you wash out your recyclables? (Yes, you should!) Our days are punctuated with brief hits of water use, and they add up. But the water footprint also incorporates the hidden water costs of our consumption.

Here’s one question: is this sensationalized? I mean sure, it’s a public radio show and it’s science news. But consider the number that Ira gave us for a hamburger: 1,700 gallons per pound of protein. Let’s consider that the typical burger that any American wants to eat (except me, because I tend to eat twice as much) is a quarter-pound, that should be more like 425 gallons. Right?
English: Hamburger.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, consider this: a quarter pound of hamburger is around 30 grams of protein.  When you consider the words “per pound of protein”, then you might be encouraged to do the math: 30 grams is about .064 pounds, times 1,700 gallons is more like 109 gallons of water.

What a relief, right? That’s only enough water to fill two bath tubs!

Let’s just say that the more processing a product requires, the more water it uses, and if you’re the end user then it’s on you. But meat and dairy are special, because they come from living organisms that require water the same way that we do. This is not to put you off your steak, of course, but it’s estimated that on the planetary scale, consuming animal products makes up around 25% of our water footprint. Most of that is actually used to make the feed for those animals.

Insects food stall in Bangkok, Thailand
Insects food stall in Bangkok, Thailand (Image credit: Wikiped

But hey, if we turn to entomophagy, we could save a whole bunch of water!

Where did I get robbed? Was it being brought up in a steak-and-chicken culture? Was it being taught that insects were disgusting and unclean? I ask, because it turns out that around 80% of the world’s population eats over a thousand species of insects!

Consider this a fair warning: they’ve been talking about eating insects for years. This really isn’t anything new. Heck, some of you may have tried some, even if it’s just chocolate-covered grasshoppers or something. But now it looks like they plan to ramp it up. If it came down to paying something like fifty dollars for a steak, would you turn to a diet of scorpions and cockroaches?

Personally, I’d go vegetarian.

The hidden water resource use behind meat and dairy | Arjen Y. Hoekstra

Insects could be the key to meeting food needs of growing global population | Damian Carrington


  1. I’ve read about this, too. You’ve covered most everything I remember pretty well, but here’s a few things you (may have) missed:

    1. Consider shrimp, prawns, crayfish/crawdads, and lobster. They aren’t that too far removed from insects and arachnids.

    2. There are alternate ways to include insects in the diet. Surely you read about insects consumed in their larval stages. Also, some are ground to powder, so they could be used in breads, soups, and so forth. Trying to remember where I read about that…

    3. Yes, digust about insects stems from modern cultures viewing them as pests. There’s a good video about it; I’ll have to see if I can find it on YouTube.

    It’s very interesting that producing beef was said to be the biggest consumption of water, with pork being a little over half the amount, and chicken being half that again. The cost of the meat seems commensurate with the water consumed. Guess what’s most of my meat consumption? (Hint: it didn’t use to say moo or oink.)

      • I’m having trouble finding it, but if you didn’t see this already, ASAPScience (popular YouTube channel run by two guys) has got a good start:

        They include a link to another video where they actually dig into some recipes.

        These guys covered Soylent (not Green Soylent- the meal replacement powder a software engineer developed) and also filmed themselves trying it out; they do take the time to research some things personally.

  2. Water – well that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, so to speak.

    The drought in California has been going on for years now – and it’s beyond serious – because the produce or ability to produce as per “normal” is drastically reduced. But then – the fallout – exportation of the best produce (hint – we Canadians love our Cali produce) increases to astronomical prices (transport costs rise, shipping and storage, fuel and the buyer, who incidentally is already making about 300% profit on most produce, passes it all along to us, the ready consumer). And the short end of the stick, besides the environment, producers – although selling for a hefty price is beneficial to them – is that locals end up with the “lesser grade” and when the stocks are depleted – too bad.

    It’s a very vicious and never-ending cycle of mass waste and consumption.

    In North America alone, I would guesstimate that we could easily feed every single person – as in no one would ever be hungry – 3 square healthy meals a day – with so much left over, that we could start tackling global hunger with incredible ease. The sheer amount of waste we produce, in terms of tonnage of food – and I’m just talking meats, dairy, vegies, fruit – alone – baffles my mind.

    The entire system is criminal – and we are as much culpable as anyone else.

    • Well imagine the waste when people stop paying the buyers’ prices. Eventually it would be more cost-effective for Canadians to mass-produce hydroponic and greenhouse foods than to buy the import stuff. In North Dakota we have a lot of local produce, which would be an ideal way to make the drought less of a problem. My thought process on Cali goes like this: much of it began as desert. It wasn’t meant to be that fertile. Rather than pumping a bunch of money into it to support the agricultural industry, we should be seeing if we can reallocate those resources and just worry about making sure the rest of Californians have what they need to survive in their different climate. There would still be fertile regions around natural bodies of water, for what it’s worth. But until “playing God” with Nature becomes inexpensive for us, there will always be a limit on how far we will go to preserve the status quo.

      • We do have some “choice” hydroponics here, even in my home province of Quebec, actually not far from where I live – and honestly, it tastes – well – awful. Water and genetically altered hybrid seeds – what could be tastier?

        Actually, the problem also lies in the suppliers – no word of exaggeration here – but when it’s local produce seasons – often it’s hard to find the local produce on the shelves (apart from going directly to farmer’s markets etc.). Why? It doesn’t pay enough for the suppliers to stock it – their words.
        Just lovely, eh?

        As for Cali – and your thoughts – it makes good sense. Here we are trying to do things with the earth that we weren’t truly meant to do – too much interference – so maybe our small part is – Reclaim, Reuse, Recycle – and maybe, a small vegie plot or pots to help us manage our resources.

        Great post by the way – and yeah, eating bugs has existed since the beginning of time – the only problem is, as I see it, we no longer are kids – and way back then, it didn’t matter so much if we swallowed some pure protein in various forms, because we just didn’t care XD

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