Laura Nayibi Arias, Culture Editor
From the environmental student groups actively pushing for the enactment of Meatless Mondays, to the publicity regarding the matter such as comments on the Wilsbach Dining Hall web page and informational articles, recently, we have been hearing more about initiatives taken to reduce meat consumption on this campus. Though for many the term “meatless” serves a negative connotation descriptive of what a student would be deprived of in a meal, for others it is representative of an environmentally beneficial action that shifts the American idea of a healthy and nutritious meal. Either way, there is no doubt that because the production of meat requires so many natural resources, eating less or no meat is better for the environment.
As stated by Sustainable Table, “Over 50 percent of global human-caused greenhouse gases can be attributed to livestock and their by-products.” This is because the livestock excrete high levels of methane due to their digestive processes (when passing gas and manure), such methane which then entraps in our atmosphere and absorbs heat from the sun, containing the heat and making our earth warmer. In addition, the livestock are transported to different facilities during the production process and then finally to the markets where they will be sold, this requires large trucks that through the burning of oil emit carbon dioxide. Many times, it is implied that greenhouse gases are only created by automobiles and power plants but such ideology prevents us from acknowledging that even the food that we eat is a great contributor to environmental degradation and global climate change.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that, “Agricultural production, including livestock production, consumes more fresh water than any other activity in the United States. Western agricultural irrigation accounts for 85 percent of the fresh water consumed.” Eliza Barclay from NPR News claims that it takes 52.8 gallons of water to produce a quarter pound hamburger. Not only is the livestock we eat one of the biggest contributors to global climate change, but one of the biggest consumers of our drinkable water which is rapidly becoming scarce due to water pollution from various sources. Yet, on average, the livestock population outweighs the human population by about five times due to American’s over consumption of animal protein. While a four ounce hamburger patty contains 28 grams of protein and most American’s eat meat multiple times a day, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asserts that persons from ages 14 to 18 should be consuming an average of 46 grams of protein daily.
But things are shifting. In efforts to reduce their environmental impact, many people have changed their diets to consuming little to no meat. According to the Vegetarian Times, in 2008 7.3 million Americans claimed to be vegetarians, an additional 22.8 million claiming that they followed a vegetarian-inclined diet. Increasingly, whether it is for health reasons or the efforts to create a more sustainable environment, people are discontinuing their consumption of meat. You can help the environment with just the choice of a meal.