Earth Day celebrates it's 43rd year. Go Green, Eat Veg, Save the Earth.

Nobody seems to know who officially first coined the phrase “go green” but it’s definition, well as I interpret it, means to conserve our planet's resources to the best of our ability by making conscious choices each day.  Recycle, walk when we can, compost, re-use water bottles and eat plant based. It wasn't until a few years ago that I learned about the horrid environmental impact eating meat and dairy products actually had on our home, the Earth. So, I decided to do a bit more digging and wasn't too pleased with what I discovered.

The very first Earth day was April 22nd,1970 and is said to set momentum of the modern environmental movement. The passage of the Clean Air ActClean Water ActEndangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed. However, they didn't mention anything about one major threat to our Earth that is funded by greed and protected legally, that is factory farming.

Factory farming is an "efficient" way to raise billions of animals in an unsustainable manner to eventually slaughter them for food each year. This food can be found in the meat section of our grocery store in convenient little packages which makes it easy for us to not think about what we are truly purchasing.

Factory farming is actually not efficient at all. It is one of the top contributors to greenhouse gas emissions which creates morbid climate changes on Earth. In celebration of Earth Day, I would like to educate you on the negative effects eating animal products has on our planet.

Clean Air Act?  Raising, harvesting and processing animals for food is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions, which act as a catalyst for global warming. Methane from cows is also one of the top contributors to greenhouse gasses which is 70 times more damaging to the Earth's atmosphere then C02. According to a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, including 37% of all methane and 65% of all nitrous oxide emissions. Another report from the UN states that rearing cattle for food generates more global warming emissions then transportation.Yep, that's right, more then the cars you drive each day to work.

Greenhouse Gas diagram Source:The Green Economy

Greenhouse Gas diagram Source:The Green Economy

Clean Water Act? Animals raised for food in the U.S. produce far more excrement than the entire U.S. human population. This excrement occurs all without the benefit of waste-treatment systems. According to Oregon State University agriculture professor Peter Cheeke, factory farming constitutes "a frontal assault on the environment, with massive groundwater and air pollution problems." According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the runoff from factory farms pollutes our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined. That is some serious stuff right there.

Sustainability?  Nearly half of all water consumed in the United States is from raising animals for food. It takes an astounding 2,500 gallons of water and 13 lbs of grain to produce 1lb of Beef, while it takes only 25 gallons of water to produce 1lb of wheat. 2,500 gallons of water is equivalent to showering every day, for 7 minutes per day, for one year. Think you're being green by not letting the water run when you brush your teeth? Think again. Eating that juicy hamburger or steak has much more of a lasting, negative impact.

Do you know where most of the water comes from to irrigate our crops that are used to feed livestock? Aquifers. Aquifers supply a finite underground source of fresh water through wells or springs. We are consuming water from aquifers at an alarming rate and many are becoming stressed and we can eventually run out of water if we do not make some critical changes to our lifestyle. Our planet cannot keep up with the current demands of our meat loving society and growing population.

Groundwater Review Source:

Groundwater Review Source:

Think about this, we have to feed the animals in order to raise them for food, which burns up a lot of our natural resources and takes up precious crop space (70% of all cereal and grain grown in the U.S. is to feed farmed animals).  It seems that eating the wholesome grains instead of growing them just to feed to the livestock would be a greener choice, does it not? 

Endangered Species Act?  "Every day, an estimated 100 plant and animal species are lost to deforestation".  According to the National Wildlife Federation, "A conservative estimate of the current extinction rate indicates that about 27,000 species a year are being lost and 30% of land globally is used for animal farming." According to Greenpeace, all of the wild animals and trees in more than 2.9 million acres of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil were destroyed in the 2004-2005 crop season in order to grow crops that are used to feed chickens and other animals in factory farms. Many millions more are plowed down to raise cattle for export into the U.S. But what about all of the animal habitat in the rainforest? Oh, they are left for dead and more species are becoming extinct then ever.

Commercial fishing is also grossly wasteful and posing risk to endangering species. In the process of harvesting 85 million tons of fish each year, fishers routinely discard at least 20 million tons of “by-catch,” which is unwanted fish and marine species that are killed on accident. According to a new study submitted to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), nearly 1,000 whales, dolphins, and porpoises drown every day when they become entangled in fishing gear. Scientists believe that death in fishing gear is the leading threat to the survival of the world’s 80-plus species of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Dolphin after being caught in industrial fishing gear

Dolphin after being caught in industrial fishing gear. Source: Dragonfly Science Online

By-catch is also the greatest threat to seabirds and sea turtles who also get entangled in fishing nets and gear.  At the rate we are consuming seafood, it has been speculated that as soon as 2050 we could run out of all sea animals due to over fishing and by-catch. I don't know about you, but I am going to think twice when I go to Whole Foods for a $20/lb piece of Halibut.            

Go Green."Go Green” is a household phrase and as Americans, we like to feel good about our contributions to better our planet for generations to follow.  Many of us feel it is our moral duty to dive eco friendly cars, recycle, bike to work instead of driving or taking public transportation, use re-purposed wood and purchase products that come with a certified green seal. Businesses are ranked by how “Green” they are and are rewarded handsomely for obtaining certain levels of such certification. If we are truly a “Green”, conscious country, then why are major businesses processing, storing or serving animal products? Why are many of us still chowing down on animal protein for 1-2, or heaven for bid three meals per day? I would hope to believe it’s due to the simple fact of being unaware and uneducated.  I am sorry to burst your bubble, but eating meat is about the LEAST green thing you can do for our planet.                                                                                            

As humans, it has been proven that we do not need to eat meat or dairy to survive. As a matter of fact studies show that those who eat a well balanced plant based or vegan diet live on average 7-10 years longer then those who eat animal products. Plus, it's just a sad and cruel process. I'll save that discussion for another day. Today, I celebrate our home, the Earth.  

Go Green. Eat Veg.  Save the Earth.

ashley gilday


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