There are many ways that we can reduce our carbon footprint, such as using public transit, recycling or taking shorter showers. Although these are great things that we should all practice, doing this one other thing will have a significantly higher impact – and that is to eat less meat & dairy.
I know the topic of eating or not eating meat can be quite controversial. Today on DECODED, I want to share the environmental effects that animal agriculture has on the planet we live on.
Now, before anyone gets really offended, let me start off by saying I’m not a vegan or a vegetarian. I’m working towards living a more plant-based lifestyle, but I’m not 100% there yet. There are more reasons now to switch to a plant-based diet after reading many medical journals, but I think it’s important that we are aware that the choices we make, even when planning dinner, could make a huge impact on the environment.
PHOTO BY IGOR RAND.
Are Meat & Dairy Products Actually Valuable to Us?
Recent studies have found that on average meat and dairy products only produce 18% of food calories and 37% of protein. Making them takes more than 80% of farmland and produces over 50% of the agriculture industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The Land It Uses
Remember, space & land is needed for these farm animals. The International Livestock Research Institute reported that livestock actually covers 45% of the earth’s total land.
Animal agriculture also contributes to species extinction and habitat destruction from clearing forests to grow feed crops for livestock. The widespread use of pesticides and herbicides used on the crops can then contaminate our waterways and also affect the overall health of the animals. When we eat the meat, we also end up consuming the pesticides and herbicides.
PHOTO BY LAWRSON PINSON.
The Water It Uses
Taking shorter showers or doing larger loads of laundry are conscious ways to save water. However, In the U.S. only 5% of water consumed is actually domestic. 55% of water consumed is for animal agriculture. According to the United States Geological Survey, 34-76 TRILLION gallons of water are used every year.
To put that into perspective, producing a quarter-pound hamburger patty requires over 650 gallons of water. That is equivalent to showering for 2 months every day.
The amount of water needed to produce one pound of cheese is 900 gallons, equivalent to showering for almost 3 months.
The Emissions It Creates
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide is from animal agriculture, which is more than the exhaust combined from transportation (road, rail, air and marine), and is responsible for 13% of greenhouse gas emissions.
When animals burp or pass gas, it creates methane gas which is 100 times more destructive than carbon dioxide. Cows alone can produce 150 billion gallons of methane every day.
Don’t forget about the ‘waste’
In the US., approximately 7 million pounds of excrement are produced by farm animals EVERY MINUTE. With billions of them around the world, the amount of excrement is astoundingly high. In addition, a farm with 2,500 dairy cows can produce the same amount of excrement as a city with over 400,000 people.
What’s the Impact on a Plant-Based Diet?
Someone who eats plant-based foods saves 1,100 gallons of water each day. They also save 30 square feet of forested land each day.
1.5 acres of land can produce 375 pounds of beef.
1.5 acres of land can produce 37,000 pounds of plant-based food. That’s almost 100x more.
If you think about it, even a very strong bodybuilder can lift 300 pounds. That’s very little compared to how much plant-based food you could get using the same amount of land. In addition, red meat often gets a bad reputation when it comes to your health. We often hear about how it shortens your lifespan and can even cause increased body odor.
What You Can Do
If you’re interested in lowering your carbon footprint, going meatless once a week is a great start. My husband and I have challenged ourselves to eat vegetarian for one month. Knowing that 70 billion farm animals are slaughtered for food each year is all the motivation we need.
Do you have any tips for someone who wants to eat more plant-based meals? Let us know in the comments below!
FEATURE PHOTO BY DAN GOLD.
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