Earth Day, April 22nd, is the perfect opportunity to take stock of the many ways we can do our part to protect the planet. While conversations about eco-friendly choices are often limited to light bulbs, recycling, carpooling, and shorter showers, each of us can make a much greater difference every time we sit down to eat simply by choosing vegetarian meals.
To understand why meat is so bad for the environment, you first need to know how it is produced before it ever gets to a supermarket or restaurant.
Each year in the United States, over eight billion land animals are raised on factory farms to meet the high demand for meat, dairy, and eggs. Obviously, each of these animals must eat and drink large daily amounts of food and water, which is the source of the first major environmental problem: inefficient use of natural resources. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, to produce one pound of animal protein it takes about 12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuels, and 15 times as much water as it does to produce one pound of soy protein.
In fact, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, raising animals for food--including land used for grazing and land used to grow feed crops for farmed animals--now uses a staggering 30% of the Earth's land mass. The World Bank reports that the majority of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down to graze cattle and to grow feed for farmed animals, and that this deforestation is a major contributor to climate change.
Any living being consuming food and water also produces waste, and that waste is an enormous pollutant of our water, air, and soil. Farmed animals produce five tons of waste for every person in the United States, so reducing meat production is critical to diminishing pollution. Manure runoff from factory farms washes into our nation's waterways, which has caused over 230 "dead zones" across the East Coast.
All of these factors, plus the health benefits of eating less meat, have led some of the world's preeminent governmental organizations to encourage a worldwide reduction in meat consumption.
Thankfully, more and more people--from celebrities to athletes to legislators--are leaving meat off of their plates and embracing delicious vegetarian meals. Eating veg meals has never been easier or more tasty, with meat-free and vegan options widely available around the country. There are even cruelty-free versions of traditional favorite foods, such as veggie burgers, almond milk, vegan chicken nuggets, and soy- or coconut milk-based ice cream.
For recipes, tips, and resources on incorporating healthy, humane, and delicious vegetarian meals into your diet for Earth Day or any day, order your free Vegetarian Starter Kit and visit ChooseVeg.com.
Rethink Your Diet This Earth Day
by - April 18, 2013