This week in sustainability: Go green, eat green

January 29th, 2015


There are some tastes that just cannot be matched, such as the decadence of a juicy, melt-in-your-mouth steak, or that salty, delicious crunch as you bite into a crispy piece of fried chicken. The scrumptiousness of meat is irresistible for the average carnivorous human. But, it’s not so attractive to the animals, forests, air, water and land that cannot enjoy the “benefits” of the meat industry as humans do, at least on the surface.


I know what you’re thinking: Here comes a hippie article on how everyone should become a vegetarian for the sake of the poor animals. Sure, that’s part of it. But hear me out, it’s more than just that. By cutting meat from your diet, you can decrease your carbon footprint immensely while remaining healthy.


Many believe that carbon dioxide emissions are the most powerful and detrimental greenhouse gases. While carbon emissions are powerful and must be reduced, what many people don’t realize is that gases such as methane and nitrous oxide produced by cattle digestion and fertilization of soil, have more widespread harmful effects.


It might surprise you that, on average, producing a half pound of hamburger releases as much gas into the atmosphere as does driving a 3,000 pound car for ten miles. Think about that the next time you enjoy a juicy burger.


If that doesn’t convince you (we all know some climate change deniers), there are other effects of meat production that are just as scary. Raising livestock for food now uses 30 percent of the Earth’s ice-free surface and 70 percent of grain grown in the United States is used to feed these livestock. Now, imagine how many starving humans we could feed with these crops instead. Giant factory farms in the United States are an inefficient use of the world’s resources if we could simply adapt to a nutritious, plant-based nutrition.


You might be thinking, ‘Cool, if I stop eating meat, I can save the world. But what about my diet?’ The statement that humans won’t be able to get their protein without meat is a myth. In fact, there are various, more healthy ways to make sure you get protein in your diet without one ounce of meat.


If you stopped by the Wellness Fair in the atrium a few weeks ago, you may have spotted Jeremy Snacktion, one of the representatives of bakery/snackery Plant Kingdom, educating students on the potential that plants like protein-rich hemp have for our health and for the environment. When asked how to ensure protein sufficiency, Snacktion, a vegetarian, said, “Hempseed is a top protein dense plant food, right up there with soy, and very easy to digest with brain supportive Omega-3 fats. Nuts and nut butters are always filling, as is quinoa. And that’s not even touching on beans and lentils.”


Producing just one pound of animal protein takes about 12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuel and 15 times as much water as it takes to produce one pound of soy protein. Think not just about your own health, but about the world around you and how you’re affecting it by what you consume.


It’s hard to quit anything cold turkey, but it may be easier to slowly cut down on how much meat you consume, even on a daily basis. I encourage you – yes, you – even if you are an aspiring body builder demanding that you must eat meat, to participate in Meatless Monday. This day is a global campaign, encouraging people to eliminate meat from their diets at least one day per week and instead eat something plant-based and healthier – for you and for your earth.


We must all think of the effects we have on the earth and its resources, which will continue to quickly diminish if we continue to use them inefficiently.


One thing everyone can easily control is their diet. Food is one of the most basic elements of life – by making sure we know exactly what we consume, we can make the planet a cleaner and healthier place.