Are vegans just crazy hipsters refusing to follow the social norm? Vegetarians and vegans may have various reasons for choosing their diets, but no matter what their motives are, they are positively impacting our world! They improve important environmental factors such as reducing climate change and conserving resources.
“Vegetarianism uses less water, less land, less waste, and less methane.” said SHS environmental teacher Ms. Kathy Uhler.
Meat and poultry is the largest industry of agriculture in the United States. Researchers have found that livestock agriculture is, in fact, connected to climate change.
“Climate change and environmental damage are definitely affected by animal agriculture,” said Veg Club adviser Mr. William Lowenburg.
When cows are raised specifically for beef and milk, they release harmful chemicals. For example, when these cows fart, they release huge amounts of methane into the air. Cow manure releases nitrous oxide, which is also harmful for our environment. This has been said to have put more greenhouse gases into the air than cars and planes combined! This statistic came from the U.N. food and agricultural organization Report in 2006. These chemicals have had drastic effects on climate change, and continue to do so today.
Livestock agriculture uses up huge amounts of resources. A study at Cornell University discovered that creating plant-based protein uses eight times less fossil fuel energy than producing animal based protein. That's quite a lot! The PB&J campaign stated that eating a single plant based meal a week instead of a burger can save 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, 133 gallons of water, and 24 square feet of land. Around a third of the United State’s topsoil has been lost due to many factors, the biggest being livestock agriculture.
“By not consuming animal products you’re not contributing to a lot of different types of pollution,” said Lowenburg.
In 2012, the U.S. alone averaged eating 52.2 billion pounds of meat a year. We are the second biggest meat eating country in the world, right behind Luxembourg. In India, one of the lowest meat eating countries in the world, each person consumes around 7.1 pounds of meat each year, while people in the U.S. eats approximately 207.7 lbs each year. That’s a difference of 200.6 pounds per person! This statistic was given in 2007 by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United States.
Each year the United States raises and eats about 65 billion animals. The Humane Society of the United States says that if every American cut out meat only once a week, approximately 1.4 billion animals could be spared each year.
“I’ve learned to eat meat with other things, and in smaller portions, so I’m not just eating a giant chunk of meat,” said Uhler who also “learned to like almond milk and sometimes substitutes it for regular milk.”
You don’t want to give up your carnivorous ways? There are other things you can do in your kitchen to become more environmentally friendly!
Buying organic and non-GMO food helps to keep our soil clear of harmful chemicals and helps to preserve local wildlife. Unplugging kitchen appliances when they aren’t in use can help to conserve energy. You can go even further by getting energy star approved kitchen appliances.
“Stop drinking bottled water. It’s the biggest resource waste I can think of,” said Lowenburg. Aside from being a large resource waste, plastic bottles contain toxic chemicals. When plastic sits around for long periods of time or is exposed to heat, the harsh chemicals can seep out into your water. Instead, you can carry around a metal or glass water bottle to refill!
“The point is to start somewhere and do what you can do,” said Uhler.