Friday, June 8, 2007

The ramifications of being vegan and its impact on the environment

With the recent popularity of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” people are talking continuously about global warming and its dangers. Right now, of course, the focus is on developing alternative sources for fuel to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and this is imperative. We can and should be developing alternative energy sources for homes, cars, places of business, etc. Take Brazil, for example. It runs entirely on its own biofuels; although these fuels are not wholly “clean burning,” they’re cleaner than fossil fuels are. The U.S. can certainly jump on the same bandwagon; we won’t be dependent on foreign energy sources for our fuel, either, if we can literally grow our own.

But if you want to do something now to favorably impact the environment (given that the U.S. is not yet in full swing with biofuels even if individual citizens would like to be), did you know that if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you are already reducing the impact you have on the environment? And even if you reduce rather than eliminate your consumption of meat, you’re still helping reduce what’s called your “carbon footprint.” In a nutshell, your carbon footprint represents the amount of carbon dioxide emissions you contribute to the environment or atmosphere with your lifestyle. This includes what and how much you drive, your monthly energy consumption to heat, cool, and light your home, heat your water, etc.

I can’t find an exact figure to tell me just what a meat-eating diet vs. a vegan one produces in carbon dioxide emissions, but it takes between 10 and 20 times more energy and resources to feed the average meat eater than it does a vegan or vegetarian. The figures are broad because, of course, you’ll have much less impact on the environment as a vegan if you eat only locally grown, organic produce you bought from the farmer’s market than you will if you buy it from your local grocery, as I do. But you’ll still help the environment a lot if you “go veggie” even part time no matter how you slice it. So, go on. What are you waiting for? The polar ice caps are a’ melting!

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