The “breathtaking effects” of cutting back on meat

by Mike Gaworecki

April 10, 2009

Here at Greenpeace we work a lot more to influence global warming policy than we do to promote individual lifestyle choices. But this recent HuffPo article, “The Breathtaking Effects of Cutting Back On Meat,” is an excellent reminder that our personal choices really do have an impact on the planet:

If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save:

  • 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months;
  • 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year;
  • 70 million gallons of gas–enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare;
  • 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware;
  • 33 tons of antibiotics.

If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would prevent:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France;
  • 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages;
  • 4.5 million tons of animal excrement;
  • Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant.

Of course lifestyle choices alone can’t deal with the scope of the global climate crisis. It’s incredibly important that we stay active and keep telling our elected representatives in no uncertain terms that we expect them to deal with global warming and kickstart an energy revolution. But being the change we want to see is also a very powerful way to make a difference.

If you want to know more about how industrial agriculture is contributing to global warming, check out this report: “Cool Farming: Climate impacts of agriculture and mitigation potential” (you can download the full PDF, or the summary). Deforestation to clear land for cattle grazing is also a huge contributer to greenhouse gas emissions; read more about that in our report, “Amazon Cattle Footprint.”

We also have a page in our Green Living Guide that deals with food choices. The page is called “On your plate.” It’s full of good tips, like this one: “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.”

So no need to forego showers! (Seriously, please don’t.) Whether you go vegetarian for life, for a day, or just eat less meat in general, you can make a huge reduction in your personal carbon footprint.

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