Ashley and I wanted to do something for Lent this year to both test our resolve and help the environment. As former hippies in Berkeley, we've heard a lot about concerns for God's creation can be acted out in one's daily lives.
We compost our food scraps and we recycle; and we try to use products that don't create a lot of trash. We have become more aware of the gas we use and drive more sparingly. Once, after reading how much diapers go into landfills, Ashley researched cloth diapers and we've used them ever since. From reusable zip-lock bags, grocery bags, sandwich bags, produce bags, and even smoothie pouches, we've made a dent into our carbon footprint.
But like many Americans, we were less aware of how exactly our diet impacted the environment: specifically our meat consumption. Saying nothing of the treatment of the animals we consume, we negatively effect the environment every time we eat meat. In an excellent article in The Guardian, John Vidal writes that the "combined climate change emissions of animals bred for their meat were about 18% of the global total – more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together."
I read that "a Vegan driving a Hummer does more for the environment than a meat-eater driving a Prius."
I find that to be shockingly profound. I think it would shock a lot of people to realize that the meat they eat is as bad- or worse- than the gas the use.
Perhaps equally shocking is that the world consumes twice as much meat as it did 30 years ago. Twice!
Not only does this effect green house gas emissions, but it also takes more of the Earth's resources. Let me explain. Corn is good. It grows in lots of places and has nutritional value. It's also part of a balanced diet for cows, who eat 8-14 lbs of "cow food" each day. They are killed when they reach three years old, and for argument's sake weigh 1000lbs, 400lbs of which is turned into edible meat. 10lbs a day for three years is 10,950lbs of food for 400lbs of meat in the grocery store.
Vidal writes, "other academics have calculated that if the grain fed to animals in
western countries were consumed directly by people instead of animals,
we could feed at least twice as many people – and possibly far more – as
we do now."
And that's just food consumption- not water or land.Land is perhaps the biggest problem that we face. Again, Vidal,
"A Bangladeshi family living off rice, beans, vegetables and fruit may
live on an acre of land or less, while the average American, who consumes around 270 pounds of meat a year, needs 20 times that."
20 acres of land to support my eating habits. I feel ashamed. It was then I realized this simple logic: the bigger the animal, the more land they need, food they eat, water they drink, and methane gas the release.
That's why Ashley and I gave up beef and pork. I haven't lost any weight, gained more energy, or lowered my blood pressure. It wasn't about myself. It's about God and our charge to care for God's creation.
Too often we operate out of a "what's in it for me" mentality. Our hotels boast a greener initiative to save money on laundry. Cleaning products boast greener solutions in order to sell more soap. This half-hearted view of saving God's creation will get us no further than a marginally deserved pat on the back.
But if each of us does something as simple as reduce our intake of beef and pork with the conscious intention of helping to save the planet, then we can begin to call ourselves stewards of God's creation.
This is the first step toward a sustainable future. And it's as simple as making more side dishes or ordering a smaller sandwich. Only you can prevent Climate change.