On your plate

Page - August 7, 2006
Chances are that as someone who cares about the environment, you are always searching for things you can do to help protect it. But did you know that you can help protect the environment by simply making modifications to your diet?

Greenpeace has been an advocate for keeping Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) out of our food supply and encouraged consumers to only buy foods that are GMO-free.  Additionally, concerned individuals can lower their impact on the planet by cutting down on the meat they eat each week.  Not everyone realizes the impact that raising animals for food has on the environment.  Consider these facts:

  •  In the United States, more than one third of all fossil fuel and raw material consumption is used to raise livestock.
  •  It can take up to 15 times as much water to produce animal protein as it does to produce protein from plants.  According to author John Robbins in his book The Food Revolution, you could save more water by not eating a pound of California beef than you could by not showering for an entire year.
  •  Animal agriculture contributes significantly to global warming by producing more than 100 million tons of methane annually.
  •  Livestock operations generate roughly 130 times as much bodily waste as the entire human population of the United States, which makes its way into the environment without going through the sewage treatment systems found in our cities and towns.  This untreated waste pollutes American waterways more than all other industrial sources combined.
  •  It takes up to 10 pounds of grain to produce just one pound of meat. In the US, we feed more than 70 percent of the grains and cereals we grow to farmed animals, only a fraction of which is actually converted into the meat that people eat. The world's cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people - more than the entire human population on Earth.
  • More than 260 million acres of US forests have been cleared to grow grain for livestock. In the Amazon, more than 2.9 million acres of rainforest were destroyed in the 2004-2005 growing season to raise crops that were used to feed animals in factory farms. Up to 220 square feet of rainforest are sacrificed to produce just one pound of hamburger.
  •  Due to the amount of land required to raise animals for food and the destructive effect livestock has on the land, animal farming is the leading threat to endangered species and the number one cause of species extinction in the US and around the world.
  •  According to the Worldwatch Institute, the meat industry is directly responsible for 85 percent of all soil erosion in the US.

So whether you decide to go vegetarian or simply cut down on the amount of meat you consume, eating more plant-based foods is a powerful action you can take to help protect the environment.  Finding delicious and healthy meatless alternatives has never been easier with the variety of options that are now available in supermarkets, health food stores and restaurants. 

In addition to saving vital chunks of rainforest, consuming less raw materials, saving water and generating less pollution, eating less meat can also provide significant benefits to you and your family.  Leading health organizations agree that a balanced plant-based diet can support a lifetime of good health and can help protect against diseases such as cancer and heart disease.  So the next time you go food shopping, think about the planet and buy green!