I am a granola — guilty as charged. I have also been guilty of harming the environment — little did I know at the time. Granolas are supposed to be protectors of the environment. According the the Urban Dictionary, a granola is a person who is environmentally aware and is concerned about wasting resources. I don’t remember when I started thinking this way, but it was probably sometime in high school. I remember going to my local park and working with a friend to pick up all the litter I saw there. I felt better after having removed all the ugliness put there by uncaring people. I felt it was my duty as a citizen of the world to make it a better place. As a matter of fact, that act got me a job at that park one summer. I had mentioned picking up litter at the park in my interview and was later told that helped me get the job.
I worked at the park only one summer, but loved it so much I changed majors and my college of choice. I decided to go into wildlife management so that I could help the environment and animals, another love of mine. After getting my 2 year degree in Wildlife Management, I attended a 4 year college and got my bachelor degree in Natural Resources. I was trained to be a naturalist — someone who helps others understand, and hopefully develop a better respect for nature. From there I got a pretty good job in the solid waste field. I was in charge of developing programming to help teachers and their students understand the solid waste problem. Our landfills were filling up and we needed to educate people about why it was important to “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” I wrote curriculum, developed presentations, and even made a video about the importance of the three Rs. This was back in the early 1990s.
Ever since that time my career has taken many twists and turns, but I have always called myself an environmentalist. I have always recycled whatever I can. It is simply not right to throw away an aluminum can, plastic or glass bottle, or any kind of paper. I also recycle clothes and other items I no longer want by taking them to a thrift shop so that they don’t end up in a landfill. I am also a bit of a fanatic about saving water. If you’re not using it, don’t let it keep running. Wasting water is so foreign to me. Don’t people realize that clean, fresh water is limited? We should never waste it.
So for many, many years I helped educate others about saving our environment and gave them tips and pointers on how to do just that. In my own life, I was actively doing whatever I could to help the environment. But I was still doing something else in my own life that was really hurting the environment and I didn’t even know it. I was totally ignorant that I was part of the problem. What was I doing? I continued to eat meat.
I have since come to the conclusion that you cannot truly call yourself an environmentalist if you choose to consume meat as most Americans do — purchasing it as a local grocery store or buying it at a restaurant — most of which comes from factory farms.
So how does eating meat harm the environment?
IT WASTES WATER
According to a TIME magazine article, livestock production uses ⅓ of our fresh water. The Washington Post reported that per kilo-calorie, plants require much less water than meat. It takes approximately 1.34 liters of water to produce a kilo-calorie of vegetables compared to 10.19 for bovine meat. So it can take as much as 10 times more water to produce a kilo-calorie of meat vs. vegetables. The International Water Management Institute did a report that showed that it takes 550 liters of water to make enough flour for one loaf of bread. However it takes almost 7000 liters to produce 100 grams of beef — that is not even ¼ lb of beef. The significant water usage is from watering the animals, as well as the plants needed to feed them. If you are interested in helping save water, think about reducing or eliminating meat from your diet in addition to turning your water off while brushing your teeth or doing the dishes. Eating meat wastes a tremendous amount of water. I used to think shutting off water was all I could do, but not anymore.
IT INCREASES THE USE OF PESTICIDES
The use of pesticides has skyrocketed with our ever increasing demand for meat. According to the Environmental Working Group, approximately 167 million pounds of pesticides are used to grow livestock feed in the United States. Livestock eat 5 times as much grain as Americans as a whole each year. If you want to cut down on pesticide use, one of the best things you can do is reduce your meat consumption.
ANIMALS PRODUCE A LOT OF WASTE
It’s common sense. Animals produce lots of waste. CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) are basically factory farms which house thousands of animals that all produce waste. This waste has to be disposed of in some way. Often this waste causes pollution and environmental hazards to those who live close to CAFOs. The EPA reported that waste from livestock has polluted 27,000 miles of rivers and has contaminated groundwater. I live near Lake Erie, which has had issues with algal blooms for several years. It has been determined that these algal blooms are caused by run-off from CAFOs. The Natural Resources Defense Council states that algal blooms are causing “dead zones” on the Gulf of Mexico which covered an area of 7,700 square miles during the summer of 1999. I wonder how big it is now. Pesticides are poison. If you want less poison in your world, reduce or eliminate meat.
RAISING ANIMALS FOR MEAT INCREASES GREENHOUSE GASES
I’m sure you are aware that livestock both burp and fart. This comes from the billions of animals we raise and slaughter for meat each year. According to an article in the Scientific American, raising cows for food creates 10-40 times the greenhouse gas emissions as vegetables. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization states that 15.5% of all global greenhouse gases come from livestock. Global warming and greenhouse gases are a hot button topic. Some believe it is caused by human activity on the Earth and some believe its a natural cycle. Either way, study after study has shown a connection between raising livestock and an ever increasing amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Worried about global warming? Help the Earth by reducing or eliminating your consumption of meat.