When we talk about things like carbon footprint and reducing our impact on the environment in terms of changing our food sources, we usually talk about it in terms of BIG changes that we can make. Specifically, going meatless for meals and adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Meat production is a major contributor to climate change. It is estimated that livestock production accounts for 70 per cent of all agricultural land use and occupies 30 per cent of the land surface of the planet. Because of their sheer numbers, livestock produce a considerable volume of greenhouse gases (such as methane and nitrous oxide) that contribute to climate change. In fact, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that livestock production is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases.
The problem with this is that, as with any lifestyle or behavioral change, or any time we want to break or make habits, going too big can actually be detrimental. Sometimes we need to take small baby steps to make big changes. In fact, if we ask or tell people to “go meatless,” and they are big meat-eaters, it can push them in the complete opposite direction because the task seems too insurmountable or drastic. And how does that help anyone?
If, for example, I start talking to an avowed meat-eater about how everyone should adopt a vegan diet* and other such extreme ideas – even if I don’t think that adopting a vegan diet is too extreme – we’re just going to have major communication problems and not agree with each other, and I’ll have probably lost a great opportunity to share a little bit of knowledge about new ways of eating. This is an issue that I see taking place over. and over. and over again.
Here’s the thing: we tend to be pretty passionate about food and our personal food decisions, and it’s something we want to share with other people. But if we try to push our particular food values and beliefs onto someone else who doesn’t share those beliefs, that person is probably just going to be pushed further in the opposite direction than we want them to go in.
And this brings me back to the carbon footprint and meat issue. It’s all fine and good to note that livestock is a major factor with regards to climate change, but how can we take this information and actually do something about it? How can we take action to decrease our carbon footprint without feeling as though we’re depriving ourselves of something we love?
There are two really excellent options to go with for people who just don’t feel satisfied without some kind of meat in their meal (and I know a whole lot of people who feel this way, which is okay!):
- Eat smaller portions.
- Choose free-range, organic, and local meat.
For #1, eat smaller portions, you can up the intake of vegetables and decrease your meat portion, or if you are eating your meat in a salad or on a pizza, you can often cut the amount down by a third or a half without even noticing.
For #2, choose free-range, organic, and local meat, the best thing you can do is find a local farmer (or a farmers’ market, or a local grocery store supporting small farmers) who produces meat in an ethical, natural way. It tastes just as delicious as (if not more delicious than) conventional meat, and you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint without even reducing your meat intake! That’s win-win.
How do you feel about conventional vs. naturally-grown meat? What are some of the biggest challenges you face with decreasing your carbon footprint? Share in the comments section below!
*This is just an example – those of you who read my blog regularly know that I’m a) not vegan although I enjoy eating vegan occasionally, and b) a big proponent of adopting whatever diet feels right for you!