Replacing Meats with Fresh Produce Reduces Emissions and Improves Health
Environmental Working Group produced a chart comparing the environmental impact of different meats, and found that if all Americans chose a vegetarian diet, the environmental impact would be equivalent to removing 46 million cars from the road. (Huffington Post 2014).
39,171,000 cows in the United States in 2011 according the USDA.
46,000,000-the equivalent number of car emissions avoided by not eating meats.
So, it turns out my dad was right, cows do produce more methane gas than my car is allowed to produce. The environmental impact of a carnivorous lifestyle was lost on me as a teenager, but then his point wasn’t to get me to stop eating meat. Quite the contrary. His argument was why car emission standards wouldn’t matter. The improvement in the Denver air quality from the 1980’s to the present tells a different story…but I digress.
I don’t for a moment think that we can, nor do we really want to all become vegetarians. It’s just that as we consider the impact of our environmental decisions, eliminating the emissions from 46 million cars sounds like a pretty good start. And we could make that improvement without giving up any of our cars. Maybe if we ate half as much meat, eliminating emissions from the equivalent of 23 million cars is a step in the right direction.
Perhaps more importantly, eating more fruits and vegetables seems to have significant health impacts, including extending your life expectancy by about 10 years on average.
Jamie Oliver, food educator and author, has touted the health benefits of adding fresh vegetables to all of our meals. His TedTalk “Teach Every Child About Food” included surprising statistics about diet related health issues currently facing America. According to the National Vital Statistics report, approximately 56% of the deaths each year are due to diet related causes pointing to heart disease as the highest single contributor. Morphing our national diet to include significantly more fresh produce is the least expensive and greatest impact solution for reducing early deaths from diet related diseases.
The least expensive solution reduces our carbon footprint and our national waistline.
Win, win, win.
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