Reducing Meat Consumption Will Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

If you’re environmentally conscious these days, you realizing that there’s an overwhelming number of ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint; ranging from recycling options, improving your vehicle’s miles per gallon, switching to LED bulbs, or adjusting your thermostat.

All that’s great, because these suggestions address the opportunities for you to reduce your carbon footprint.  We all know, that consuming less fossil fuels and scaling back on products that are fuel-intensive during its manufacture, processing, and distribution can take tons off your annual carbon emissions and slivers off your carbon footprint.  All great.

But one of the most under-appreciated opportunities involves your meat consumption, especially red meat. Reducing meat in your diet surprisingly is one most cost effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint, or more accurately your greenhouse gas footprint.

It doesn’t require any upfront financial investment, no additional time, just a little forethought and willingness to make an adjustment.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has an established non-profit initiative called Meatless Mondays.  Its goal is to reduce meat consumption by 15% in order to improve personal and planetary health. The Meatless Monday website provides the rationale, benefits, and recipes to help even the most loyal carnivore, more easily make this transition.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide . . . far more than transportation. What’s compounding the matter further is that annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow.  Beef consumption in many Asian countries has been on the rise as these global citizens substitute meat for bean proteins that have been a staple of their diets for centuries.

It is going the wrong way, instead, every global citizen should be substituting more bean proteins (tofu, lentils, ..) for meat.

If people would start reining in their meat consumption and avoiding it just once a week it would slow this upward trend, may even stall, or reverse it.

Currently, there are 90 million heads of cattle roaming the pastures and stockyards of America. That’s a little over one per every three U.S. citizens.   It’s hard to imagine, consuming a third of a cow over the near term.

The measured downsides of meat production versus other more efficient plant-based sources of protein are:

Water Usage – Livestock consume tremendous amounts of water, far above those of vegetables or grains. Almost 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef.   With 7.5 gallons of water in one cubic foot, that’s enough water to fill a 6′ x 7′ room – floor to ceiling.  Just for one pound of beef, multiply this across their 500 pound body weight.   In contrast, other protein-rich alternatives, such as soy produced in California, requires only 220 gallons of water per pound.

Fossil Fuel Consumption – On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S.  So, how much is this in relative terms? Compare these 40 calories of energy to the meager 2.2 calories of energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein. Moderating meat consumption is a great way to cut fossil fuel demand from growing our foods.

Methane and Nitrous Oxide Emissions – Methane a potent climate change element comes from both cow burps and manure.   Sure methane is a natural element generated by composting and plant decay, but it is powerful in comparison – 23x global warming potential (GWP) compared to CO2.   Cow bulbs produce millions of tons of methane all due to what’s on our dinner plate. Manure generates 65% of all human-induced nitrous oxide which has 296x the GWP of CO2.

Impact To The Land – Grazing land accounts for 30% of the earth’s entire land surface and it takes 33% of the arable land to produce the crops to feed the livestock.  Grazing lands are typically degraded due to overgrazing, compaction, and erosion.

This is one of the smallest investments and habit changes you can make to take a healthy sliver off your annual personal carbon footprint and maybe even your waistline.

Mainstream advertisers and the various Meat Lobbies over the last few decades have promoted the benefits of the intake of meat protein every day, every meal.  Catchy ads entertained us with slogans like “What’s For Dinner?…. Beef”.  Keep in mind that our ancestors, no matter what origin did not have this same meat protein rich diet that we now regularly consume, 2-3 meals a day, every day.

Give this meat reduction and carbon footprint reduction suggestion some serious consideration, not only for your health, your families health, or your wallet but as a really effective way to reduce your carbon footprint.  You’d be better off focusing less on recycling and more on gradually scaling back your meat consumption.   You’ll be glad that you read this little tidbit.

Editor’s picks on other Green Blizzard articles that you will enjoy:  Local Produce,  Aqua Culture Causing Carbon Ripples.


About the author

Moose Mosely

Moose, (yes, that's his everyday name - at least as far as we know), writes about all sorts of green living insights. Every minute, every decision we make in our lives has some impact to our personal carbon footprint, and Moose is there to share some insights on its impact and relevance and suggests healthier alternatives.