Okay, so you care about the environment. You drive a hybrid vehicle, bring your own bags to the supermarket, recycle, mostly buy organic, use energy-saving appliances and/or youíve carbon-offset your recent flight, road trip or wedding (check out TerraPass.com). You even went out to rent An Inconvenient Truth for the third time, but you just had to stop by In-N-Out on the way home for your favorite cheeseburger. Nevermind the fact that this meal ainít so great for your health, have you ever stopped to think about what that burger does to the planet? Yeah, yeah—there is only so much you can do. Well, the IE Weeklyís not trying to tell you that you have to become a strict veg-head—but switching out your steak for a salad every once in a while just might be smarter than you think.
In the article ìDiet for a Cooler Planetî for Active.com, Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., coauthor of Six Arguments for a Greener Diet, outlines how a worldwide jump in meat and dairy consumption is taxing our planetís resources and health. Jacobson quotes a 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which found that livestock not only pollute our water, air and soil, theyëre also responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Gassy cattle belch out enormous volumes of methane (23 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide), and livestock manure causes two-thirds of man-made nitrous oxide (300 times more potent than carbon dioxide).
And then there are all the resources it takes to feed those burping bovine. Growing corn, soybeans and hay for feed uses up about half of all U.S. fertilizer, states the FAO, generating large amounts of nitrous oxide. In Brazil, 70 percent of onetime forestland is being used as pasture and to grow animal feed. Worldwide, 34 million acres of trees are cut and burned each year for pasture and feed crops, accounting for 25 to 30 percent of all the carbon that enters our atmosphere. Raising chickens, pigs and sheep, and commercial fishing, arenít that much better.
According to a 2006 report by Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin of the University of Chicago, the food people eat is just as important as what kind of cars they drive when it comes to creating the greenhouse-gas emissions that many scientists have linked to global warming. Cutting down on just a few hamburgers or eggs each week is an easy way to reduce emissions, they said.
ìWe neither make a value judgment nor do we make a categorical statement,î said Eshel, an Assistant Professor in Geophysical Sciences. ìIf you simply cut down from two burgers a week to one, youíve already made a substantial difference.î
Want to know your impact? On the Center for Science in the Public Interest website EatingGreen.org, the Eating Green Calculator determines the effects of your animal products consumption on both your health and the environment. Fill in your weekly servings of beef, chicken, pork, milk, cheese and eggs and the calculator will tell you the environmental burden of the animal products you eat in a year, including acres of grain and grass needed for animal feed, pounds of fertilizer used to grow animal feed, pounds of pesticides used to grow animal feed and pounds of manure created by the animals you eat.
As an added bonus, limiting your intake of meats and high-fat dairy in favor of fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts, just so happens to lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke, thus you will most likely live longer and be thinner!