There are lots of myths about there about vegetarianism, and vegetarians in general. Like, going veg is the healthiest way to eat (for the record—it can be, but it depends what foods you choose). Or, vegetarians are tree-hugging hippies (of course, vegetarians come in all styles, ages, shapes, and sizes). In fact, chapter 2 of The Smart Girl's Guide to Going Vegetarian is devoted to separating fact from fiction when it comes to going veg—check it out if you'd like to learn more!
This Earth Week, it seems only appropriate to address the "word on the street" that going veg or decreasing your meat consumption is good for the environment. Let's set the record straight, once and for all on this one. While a lot of so-called "benefits" of going veg may be overstated, this one is the truth. You read it here, friends: It pleases the planet when you eat less meat. When your family or friends ask "why?," here are a few key points you can share:
- It takes 25 calories of fossil fuel (responsible for most of the earth's greenhouse gasses that trap excess heat in our atmosphere) to raise each edible calorie of animal protein (in other words, meat). In contrast, it takes just two fossil fuel calories to raise each edible calorie of plant-based protein (like beans).
- Vegans, who don't eat any animal foods whatsoever, contribute 42 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than meat-eaters; lacto-ovo vegetarians around 28 percent; and semi-vegetarians around 20 percent, according to a study from Loma Linda University. So yes, eating less meat—even if you're not 100% vegetarian, 100% of the time—does make a difference.
- When cows, erm, pass gass, they release methane into the environment. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. A surefire way to make sure less meat gets released into the environment? Buy less meat—if everyone cuts down on their consumption, it will make a difference.
For more information about plant-powering your diet for a better planet, check out the blogs of two awesome green-minded registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN) I know:
- Kate Geagan, MS, RDN: http://kategeagan.com/blog/
- Sharon Palmer, RD: http://www.sharonpalmer.com/blog.php
Of course, cutting down on your meat eating isn't the only way to protect the earth. If you do eat some meat, you can choose types that have been raised using sustainable methods. And you can cut down on waste by using a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic, using a cloth shopping bag instead of disposable ones, choose to walk or take public transportation to the mall or the movies instead of getting a ride with your parents or friends. Let's get talking—tell us what efforts you are making at being more considerate of the environment this year (food-focused and not food-focused—it's the big picture that counts!). Here at SGV headquarters we're trying to use more of our to-go glass mugs for tea and coffee instead of getting the disposable papers ones. How are you doing your part?