Category: Green Lifestyle
Meat Me Half Way
Most footprint calculators, including ours, take into account the basics: home energy use, vehicles and air travel. But a good portion of your greenhouse gas emissions come from what you choose to consume - jeans, ipods, and most importantly, the food you eat. Your choices on what to eat happen multiple times each day, far more often than choosing which brand of jeans to buy - unless you are Paris Hilton.
Looking for local and organic are both good measures to reduce food-related pollution. But the biggest environmental gains in this area come from choosing to eat less meat.
The UN recently estimated that meat production accounts for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions and will continue to rise. World meat consumption per capita has doubled in the last forty years. Americans consume 75 grams of animal protein each day, over twice what is considered an adequate amount of protein.
While most livestock animals are natural ruminants (grass eaters), they are generally fed on grain these days, as unnatural as that may be. Unfortunately, grain-growing both depletes soil of nutrients and migrates huge amounts of carbon from the soil up into the atmosphere. The land used for raising livestock becomes degraded and compacted. What's more, the caloric transitions as you move up the food chain carry only about 10% of their original calories. That is, it takes 1000 calories of grain to produce 100 calories of beef.
Meat is also a thirsty, thirsty business. One pound of beef requires upwards of 500 gallons of water to produce. But it doesn't stop at drinking water. The EPA reports that nearly 75% of water quality problems in our rivers can be traced back to agricultural causes.
One person converting to a vegetarian diet would decrease their carbon footprint by about 1.5 tons per year, but don't worry , it's not an all or nothing proposition. Reducing meat consumption by just 20 percent (a day and a half per week without meat) would be the equivalent of switching from a pretty good sized standard sedan to a hybrid. It's also good for your health!
In a time when many of the solutions to our climate, energy, food and water crises are long-term and uncertain, the act of eating less meat is an immediate and empowering step that has measurable, environmentally positive effects.
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