Healing Our Planet's Ills with Manageable Actions
The topic of my previous post related to 'saving the planet', specifically targeting the health of our ecosystems, including humans. One of my first posts was about eating a plant-based diet. This post will put the two together. Remember that all organic processes are inter-connected.
What you eat matters to the earth. As you can see in the pie chart below, as of 2018, 28% of the methane gas production in the US, which is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases (the other being carbon dioxide), comes from enteric fermentation. Enteric fermentation takes place in the digestive systems of animals, in particular, ruminant animals (cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and camels). In the US this is largely from cattle. https://www3.epa.gov/ttnchie1/ap42/ch14/final/c14s04.pdf
If you consume meat products, you are contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. When combined with driving a gas-powered vehicle your carbon footprint may be greater than your actions to minimize and clean-up greenhouse gases (such as by planting trees.)
A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases generated by our actions. The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons/year, one of the highest rates in the world. Globally, the average is closer to 4 tons. To have the best chance of avoiding a 2 degree Celsius or 35.6 degree Fahrenheit rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop under 2 tons by 2050. (Courtesty of The Nature Conservency, nature.org).
There are many things we can do individually to improve the health of our planet and ourselves. Here are two ideas:
1. Reduce the amount of meat you consume. I understand that not everyone is willing to be a vegetarian or vegan but we can all reduce the amount of meat we eat. It is much healthier so it's a win-win.
Livestock raised within the commercial agricultural sector have a very controlled diet and are maintained in pens. The goal is getting the animal ready for market as quickly as possible. Their care is automated meaning they do not roam and eat in pastures. I recently saw a social media post that was making this point by saying "would you take your child to a major cow farm and allow them to watch how the animals are treated and slaughtered?" On the other hand, it's a beautiful thing to have your children join you in the vegetable garden.
So, if you eat meat, try finding a local farm that raises pigs, cows etc. and allows them to meander through pastures, eating the grass, clover etc. As I have repeated many times, buying locally costs (economically and environmentally) far less from origin to consumption than purchasing products from distant locations. The further away the source of the food, the greater the water, transportation, refrigeration and preservative costs and the lower the food quality. The farmers markets in my area have dairy and meat vendors that come from at most 20 miles away. I know that food will be the freshest it can be.
If you don't have access to fresh local food, try even harder to reduce your consumption of meat and dairy.
It is a fallacy that you need meat to get adequate protein in your diet. It simply isn't true. (see forksoverknives.com) and now that plant-based diets are so popular there is adequate support for this lifestyle. There are many excellent websites, social media groups, books, podcasts, and recipes to help with your transition and journey.
As I have stated in my purpose and mission, my goal is to offer ways to improve your health and that of our planet in small ways that don't require you to uproot your life. If you are willing to make drastic changes you may want to consider switching to a completely plant-based diet. If you are only willing to tweek your lifestyle, consider reducing the amount of meat and dairy you consume by 1/2.
2. A more difficult but important step is to offset your carbon footprint (calculation available on Nature.org) using other eco-friendly initiatives. This means compensating for the waste you do produce by reducing waste in other areas. An extreme example of this is choosing to eat meat but buying an electric car. Some ideas are provided below but I could fill pages with all of the small things you could do.
Recycle all eligible materials.
Compost or Vermipost.
Use electric appliances and vehicles rather than gas powered (the next time you need something new).
Pick a clean energy supplier.
Buy green products that avoid plastics such as toothpaste and tooth brushes, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, and personal care items. Shampoo and conditioner now come in bars as does body lotion and sunscreen. No plastic! There are also DIY solutions for just about everything.
Avoid single-use plastics.
Go digital for paying bills and communicating with others.
Have your post office stop delivering junk mail.
Have plants in your home and work spaces and plant trees outside.
A very good and easy to read book is Waste Free Kitchen Handbook by Dana Gunders (2015, Chronicle Books).
Try to make at least one change over the course of the next month and see if you can make it stick. It takes several months to develop new habits so give it a chance and be proud that you are making a difference.
Cows have rights too!
Image by /pixabay.com/users/chiplana