Eco-Rep Green Corner: Vegetarian diet can help lower CO2

What are you willing to do to help the environment? Recycle? Take shorter showers? Maybe you would carpool to school? Well, I’ve got another suggestion for you: Change your eating habits. It may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but reducing the amount of meat you consume can actually have a major impact on reducing greenhouse emissions and saving natural resources.

You’ve heard about greenhouse gases: those pesky gases that trap heat within the atmosphere, resulting in the gradual increase of the Earth’s temperature. One of the biggest culprits is carbon dioxide (CO2). The combustion of fossil fuels results in huge emissions of CO2 into our atmosphere.

Fossil fuels are needed for several steps of the meat farming process: They are used to heat the buildings where the farm animals are housed, produce the crops to feed them and to transport, process and refrigerate the meat. All in all, it takes about eight times the fossil fuel expenditures to produce meat protein as it does soy protein.

Consider this fact: You would actually be helping the environment more by going vegetarian than you would by switching to a hybrid electric car. A United Nations report in 2006 found that “raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.”

Maybe going totally vegetarian isn’t for you. There are still ways that you can make smarter, more eco-friendly choices in your meat consumption. By choosing locally grown meat, you would be cutting down on fossil fuel expenditures. Supporting independent farmers also stimulates the local economy.

But greenhouse gases aren’t the only way that the meat industry negatively impacts our planet. Consider all of the natural resources that are wasted in the farming process. Seventy percent of grain in the United States goes towards feeding farm animals. Wouldn’t those crops be put to better use if they were feeding hungry people rather than hungry cows?

Animal farming also requires huge amounts of land and water, two precious resources. All those cows need a place to graze, and more and more rainforests are sacrificed for ranching each year. And what about water? It takes 30 times more water to produce one pound of meat than it does to produce one pound of wheat. More than half of all water used in the United States goes to livestock production.

So how far are you willing to go to save the planet? By going vegetarian, or at least by making smarter choices about your meat consumption, you can help to reduce greenhouse gases, as well as help to conserve the earth’s valuable resources —  some food for thought.

All statistics are courtesy of chooseveg.com.

Rachel Gluzband is one of the seven Eco-Reps recently chosen to represent Rider.

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