19 April 2012

Earth Day and beyond: True sustainability starts on your plate

This Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day. It is a day intended to call upon all individuals to stand united for a sustainable future. It is a day that most certainly brings awareness to our care for Mother Earth, and hopefully also brings awareness to the direct connection between consuming animal products and destroying our planet.
I was reminded of this upcoming day by an email I received from Yelp that highlighted some of the most sustainable choices I could make when dining out on Earth Day. Even in forward thinking NYC, I was sorely disappointed to read on to discover that not ONE of the establishments mentioned in the email were vegan. Many boasted the use of locally sourced meat and dairy as their sustainable "achievement." The only tip I walked away with was that a farm-to-cup coffee shop a few blocks from me "makes one of the few great vegan lattes in the city." As I read on, I came upon a quote that I found quite disturbing, to say the least:

“ The chicken that Catherine L dined on at The Green Table was probably "so happy gorging on grains, sunbathing and getting its claws done in the organic magical wonderland it was raised," she could taste its "delicious happy juices." Not all organic food is made of gross granola, ya'll!"
Can Catherine L. seriously be this naive? Does that level of disconnect truly exist, or are these just the convenient lies one tells oneself? Are the meat and dairy industries' advertisements depicting happy cows, carefree chickens and smiling pigs really still fooling individuals over the age of 5? Whatever the case may be, there is no excuse. Although I am still processing the fact that a grown woman thinks the dead chicken on her plate was living a life of opulence in a "magical wonderland" just before it was slaughtered so she could consume its flesh, I will move on to the primary motivation for my quest to bring true awareness to Earth Day. The facts about the environmental impact of eating animal products remain indisputable:
  • According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of meat per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off U.S. roads.
  • The University of Chicago reports that going vegan is 50% more effective than switching to a hybrid car in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, factory farming pollutes U.S. waterways more than all industrial sources combined.
  • Twenty-thousand pounds of potatoes can be grown on one acre of land, but only 165 pounds of beef can be produced in the same space.
  • Rainforests, vital to earth's oxygen supply, are being destroyed at an alarming rate - the top cause is the raising of animals for food.
  • Forty-five percent of the total land in this country is used to raise animals for food or crops to feed these animals.
  • We have permanently lost 3/4 of U.S. topsoil; 85 percent of this loss is directly due to the raising of animals for food.
  • Twenty vegetarians can be fed on the amount of land needed to feed one person on a meat-based diet.
  • A carnivorous diet requires 4200 gallons of water per day; a vegetarian one, 300 gallons per day.
These are just a few of the many statistics that point to the direct link between eating a plant based diet and saving mother Earth. I applaud anyone who makes any effort to do their part by recycling, turning off lights, using canvas shopping bags, etc. These are things that most certainly reduce our impact on the Earth, and we should be taking such actions ALL year long, not just on Earth Day. But if you genuinely want to tread lightly on our planet, the fact of the matter is that TRUE sustainability starts on your plate.

For MANY more statistics check out 2 fantastic books by John Robbins: Diet for a New America and The Food Revolution

Lori Zito | @LoriZito
Lori is an animal-loving, life-loving vegan who is passionate about spreading the message of better health through a vegan diet. She works as a certified holistic health and nutrition coach, a yoga instructor, and a physical therapist. Learn more at her website Live In The Balance and follow her on Facebook.

Photo credit:Wikimedia Commons -- NASA Goddard Space Flight Center