Article by Amy Younger | Photography by Nick Rynes | Owl Staff
Turn off the lights when leaving a room, fill a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic, and opt for paper instead of plastic at the grocery store. These simple ways to save the environment have been reiterated for years. However, not many people know that the meat production industry, categorized under agriculture, forestry and other land use, is the third highest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the Water Education Foundation, “It takes around 16,000 liters of water (or 4,200 gallons) to make a single kilogram of beef.” Furthermore, at least 22% of greenhouse gases are from methane, and nitrous oxide, which are created from a multitude of environmentally dangerous actions but especially, “agricultural activities” as stated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Many Americans are now choosing a “green” lifestyle that incorporates vegetarianism to help counter the negative impact that meat-based diets have on the environment. These “environmental vegetarians” believe that the meat industry is depleting important resources such as water, fossil fuels, and topsoil.
Molly Ploughman, HCC student and vegetarian of 16 years, is one of 4 billion people worldwide eating plant-based diets. “It’s rewarding to be vegetarian,” says Ploughman. “I don’t know how much of a difference it makes, but I know I’m not eating any critters and I’m taking one more step toward living a more sustainable lifestyle, so that feels good.”
While vegetarians don’t eat any meat or fish, a person doesn’t have to go vegetarian to make a difference in the environment. Cutting back on meat intake to just a few days a week is enough, according to the documentary film Vegucated. If you are interested in learning more, visit The Vegetarian Resource Groups’ website at vrg.org for recipes and more information. Local supermarkets like David’s Natural Market or Wegmans also offer a variety of meatless alternatives.