Eat Less Meat For A Smaller Carbon Footprint

John-R-Garnett-Picture1-150x150Being an American means eating meat, plain and simple. It’s a cultural thing that’s seeped into almost everyone’s subconscious…that a meal is not a meal unless there is a hunk of meat on your plate. I have to admit, tearing into a medium-rare steak is supremely satisfying, especially after I’ve hit the gym and need the protein to help refuel after a hard workout. Unfortunately, my enjoyment of meat is often tinged with pangs of guilt that keep me from fully enjoying it.

As Americans, we lead the world in meat consumption, so having the country change its habits overnight is not going to happen – the meat lobbies are too well entrenched and strong. However, we can make a huge difference if we accept that we’ll probably never all stop being meat eaters, and realize we can still eat what we like in an eco-friendly manner in order to reduce our carbon footprints and protect the environment.

The meat and livestock industry is one of the most destructive on earth, contributing greatly to water pollution. Here’s a stat for you: in 2006, the UN discovered that meat industries accounted for more greenhouse emissions than a year’s worth of planes, trains and cars. In fact, about 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse emissions come from the livestock industry, with drastic impacts to the environment.

One of the best ways we can help the environment is to simply reduce our meat consumption. Michael Pollan, a famed environmental author, calculated that if Americans would refrain from eating meat one day a week, it would be the equivalent of taking 30-40 million cars off the road each year.

That means if collectively we made a small, almost insignificant change to our diets, we could start making huge changes in reducing our carbon footprints.

If you are going to eat meat, there are greener options. Red meat is by far the worst offender, which includes beef, lamb, goat and bison. However, if you do eat these meats, try eating grass-fed beef, as its environmental impact is much lower than that of grain- or corn-fed beef. It’s also safer to consume, as antibiotics are not needed as much for animals on non-grain diets. Lamb is also one of the more eco-friendlier of the red meats. Beef is by far the worst choice, as cows consume more food than other red meat animals, produce more waste which harms the environment and create more than four times as much carbon as chicken or fish.

The winners of the environmental derby are chickens and turkey. They require less food to reach maturity, produce less waste and, in general, their environmental impact is greatly reduced compared to red meat. If you have to eat meat, try eating poultry, as it will reduce your carbon footprint and be healthier for you.

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So the next time you’re consumed by a craving for that juicy steak, consider a greener option and have achicken parmesan sandwich, dripping with cheese and tomato sauce, or the eggplant parmesan sandwich, brimming with thin slices of deep fried squash. And the next time you’re at your favorite Mexican restaurant, opt for the chicken fajitas over the steak, or try the veggie enchiladas stuffed with roasted peppers, and topped with melted cheese and fresh salsa. The environment will thank you…and so will your digestive system and waistline.

Plus you’ll be as light as a butterfly !

Our editor’s picks for other Green Blizzard lifestyle articles that might be of interest: Cold Cooking Challenge, Carbon Impact of MeatsEnergy MisconceptionsLow Flows in the Home ShowerReusable Coffee Mugs and SleevesAll That Glitters is Not Gold.


About the author

John R. Garnet

John's work in the energy market fostered his interest in the environment. He recently completed his graduate work at George Mason University, But more interestingly, John has a passion for food and cooking and to provides some light-hearted tips to make people's lives greener while enjoy the good life with everyday practical tips from brewing tea, growing basil, or drinking raw milk.