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Actions Speak Louder: Eat Less Meat

We talk a lot about driving less, driving cleaner cars [], buying [] and otherwise supporting green energy [], using less energy at home [], eating locally [] and more; the list is a long one, and they’re all important, for sure, but one lifestyle choice towers over most of the rest: eating less meat.

You don’t have to become a vegetarian or vegan overnight, certainly, to make a big difference. In addition to the environmental benefits (more on those in a sec), it can make a big-time difference in your health. Eating less meat cuts out lots of the saturated fats — the “bad” fats — that have been linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension and more (read more on this here []. And, while it’s possible to be vegetarian and eat very unhealthy foods — things like Coke and fries and fried stuff and pizza and chips — it’s much more difficult. In general (though not necessarily), vegetarians replace meat with more nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and so on. If you do that, you will be getting more of the nutrients your body needs, giving you better health, less illness, and more energy.

But the thing we’re really interested in are the environmental benefits, of which there are many, so we’ll just hit the high notes here and cover things more thoroughly as the week goes on. For starters, animals raised for food expend the vast majority of the calories that they are fed simply existing, just as we do. We feed more than 70 percent of the grains and cereals we grow to farmed animals, and almost all of those calories go into simply keeping the animals alive [], not making them grow.

A major 2006 report []by the United Nations summarized the devastation caused by the meat industry. Raising animals for food, the report said, is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution and loss of biodiversity. Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale.”

To summarize, in general, it’s a very, very energy-inefficient process, from top to bottom, to consume meat and therefore help perpetuate this cycle. Eating certified sustainable meats [] helps a bit — cutting out the animal rights’ issues and some of the resource overconsumption — but nothing makes as much difference than just not doing it. Stay tuned for more tips about how to effectively cut meat out of your diet, and the ramifications for doing (and not doing) so.