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The Greeley Voice

Meat Consumption and Vegetarianism

In an era marked by increasing environmental issues, meat consumption is at the forefront of causes related to climate change.
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In an era marked by increasing environmental issues, meat consumption is at the forefront of causes related to climate change.

Meat Consumption and Vegetarianism – Jordan Silver

Over the last few decades, the Earth has been warming at an alarming rate. In fact, each year, the average temperature in the U.S. increases by .49 F degrees. It may not seem like a lot, but this number is indeed detrimental to our global climate. Harmful practices such as extraction and burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and dumping waste into landfills have contributed to growing greenhouse gas emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, as well as waste buildup in the atmosphere. Amidst recent negative news surrounding global warming, however, there is one factor contributing to our climate situation that everyone can address.

Meat consumption.

In an era marked by increasing environmental issues, meat consumption is at the forefront of causes related to climate change. Meat is a staple food for many Americans; according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average U.S. resident consumes 224.6 pounds of meat — beef, pork, and turkey — every year. Nonetheless, the livestock industry, while supplying a significant portion of the American and global diet, is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating climate change. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the production, processing, and distribution of meat requires huge outlays of pesticides, fertilizer, fuel, feed, and water. These processes release greenhouse gasses, manure, and toxic chemicals, such as chlorine, carbon dioxide, and ammonia, into our air and water. A life cycle analysis conducted by the EWG in 2011 found that the cultivation and production of red meats such as beef and lamb is responsible for 10 to 40 times as many greenhouse gas emissions as common vegetables and grains. Thus, the work behind meat processing contributes to a wide range of environmental issues, which can be addressed with vegetarian diets.

Locally, the Sustainability Advisory Board of Chappaqua works to reduce the Town’s carbon footprint, encourage climate change adaptation measures, minimize energy demand, and promote the use of alternative energy. On the topic of vegetarianism and meat consumption, Sustainability Advisory Board member Maxine Margo-Rubin reports, “There is so much waste being produced along with meat production. It is important that people are proactive in making changes to their diets to limit this.” One way to be proactive that Margo-Rubin suggests is a “Meatless Monday”, or a day in which one doesn’t eat meat, once a week. Meatless Monday is a promising component of mitigating meat emissions—just cutting out one day can make a difference. The University of Colorado Boulder states that each Meatless Monday reduces one’s carbon footprint by 8 pounds and can save 133 gallons of water per meal. Moreover, if one commits to participating in Meatless Monday every week for a year, that would be equivalent to saving the amount of emissions from driving 348 miles in a car. To make even more impact towards the cause of environmentalism, one could follow a “Weekday Vegetarianism” diet, or only eat meat on the weekends.

The benefits of part-time vegetarianism are not only projected for the environment, but also for our health. According to the National Institute of News In Health, being a vegetarian can reduce the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Vegetarian diets also allow one to reach the proper nutrients and minerals you need while staying healthier and greener. According to the Mayo Clinic, in order to have a fulfilling vegetarian lifestyle, one can choose a variety of healthy plant-based foods. Some great options include whole fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Nuts and legumes, such as lentils, beans and peanuts, also are healthy plant-based foods that contain protein. These diets can provide many health benefits and cut down environmental impacts because they require less production resources, thereby generating fewer greenhouse gasses.

The transition to vegetarian diets can be difficult for some, especially since animal products have an abundance of protein, which is an essential nutrient. However, it’s important to note that one can get this protein from many other sources such as tofu, beans, nuts, fruits, and vegetables.Young generations today must understand the extent to which their actions can impact the environment and any proactive steps they can take to help our growingly harmed environment is beneficial. It is important for Greeley students to continuously educate themselves on growing concerns of climate change, and take action by addressing factors such as meat consumption; taking a step as much as incorporating Meatless Monday into one’s diet can raise awareness and help our planet.

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About the Contributor
Jordan Silver, Staff Writer
Jordan, a junior, is a staff writer for The Greeley Voice and was previously a staff writer for The Quake. She is also an executive in the Relay for Life club. In her free time, she enjoys playing basketball and spending time with friends and family.

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