How Does Your Diet Impact the Environment?

Cow
Flickr / Bob Jagendorf

 

Trying to get in the recommended daily servings of fruits and veggies can sometimes be a tough task. But eating a diet heavy in plant-based foods is good for both you and the planet. 

According to Vegetarian Times, only 3.2% of Americans are vegetarian. For the other 96.8%, beef, chicken, and pork play a regular part of their diet. The popularity of meat has grown dramatically worldwide in a generation, causing strain on our land, water and, yes, food crops. What are the consequences of meat production?:


 

Why is meat production harmful to our land?

We use eight times as much land for feeding livestock as we do for feeding humans and approximately 260 million acres that were once forests are now grazed by cattle in the US. Worldwide, livestock rearing is responsible for nearly 20% of all greenhouse gases and is rapidly destroying rainforests in the Amazon and elsewhere.

 

Why is meat production harmful to our water supply?

Most estimates claim that between 1,800 and 2,500 gallons of water go into producing each pound of beef. Beef production includes everything from providing water to the cattle to watering fields to produce grain for the cattle to eat. According to The Sierra Club, that same amount of water “could produce 16 pounds of broccoli, 25 pounds of potatoes, enough soybeans for three pounds of tofu or enough wheat for nearly five pounds of whole wheat bread.”

Not only does producing beef use a lot of water, but it also has the potential to contaminate our waterways. According to the Government Accountability Office, an estimated 1.6 million tons of animal waste is created in the U.S. alone and this waste creates unsafe levels of antibiotics, phosphorus, nitrogen and other things in our soil and drinking water.



What are some benefits to reducing the amount of meat in my diet?

 


How can I reduce my meat consumption?

Start simple by joining the Meatless Monday campaign and vow to spend one day a week eating nothing but plant-based foods. There are plenty of protein-rich alternatives to meat like beans and tempeh and lots of vegetarian meal ideas on the EarthShare Pinterest page.

One of our favorite burger-alternative is the Portabella Burger (check out all the recipes here). The average portabella mushroom cap has approximately 50 calories with no fat or cholesterol, making it a healthy alternative to beef.

To become more familiar with the tasty produce grown in your region, consider joining a CSA (community supported agriculture)! Each week, fresh produce will be delivered to your door introducing you and your family to a variety of new, and local, foods. Find a CSA in your community here.

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