October 30, 2013

Vegetarian Challenge - Day 2

I'm stuffed. I just ate my body weight in lasagna, and it was wonderful. I apologize for the lack of photographic evidence, but the saucy, cheesy mess of deliciousness wasn't exactly attractive. For my second day as a vegetarian, I actually managed to eat vegetarian. I had bread and olive oil for breakfast, a bagel for lunch, and that pile of lasagna for dinner. Of course I would have liked to add some ground beef or sliced meatballs, but I loved every bite anyway. All I had to do was cook some lasagna noodles and layer them with tomato sauce and cheese; you can add vegetables and non-meat protein as well. Just bake for 15 minutes or so at 350F until bubbly and you have some hot, gooey, meat-free lasagna to last you for a few meals. Well, maybe not, if you eat as much as I did.

Another aspect of tonight's dinner that made me even happier was knowing that eating vegetarian, even for only a meal, is a step in the right direction for improving the environment. Today, I'd like to focus on the environmental impact, specifically pollution and climate change, of eating a typical American meat-heavy diet. Methane from cattle, gasses released from manure, fossil fuels used in transportation, refrigeration, and cooking, and all other aspects of the meat industry total to approximately 18% of world emissions, but the number can be anywhere between 5 and 50%. The Vegetarian Society estimates that livestock produce 37% of the methane, 64% of the ammonia, and 65% of the nitrous oxide linked to human activity. The EPA has estimated that industrial animal waste has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states with various bacteria. That bacteria kills fish, harms humans, and causes algal blooms, which consume large amounts of oxygen and make it difficult for organisms to live there.

In summary, the huge numbers of animals needed to satisfy demand wreaks havoc on the environment. The amount of energy required to produce animal protein is far more than the amount of energy to produce alternative proteins. In addition, while some manure is good for crops, the 350 million tons of it produced every year emit greenhouse gasses, spread disease, and contaminate water. I know that I probably won't be able to eat an entirely vegetarian diet, but these statistics certainly make me want to reduce the amount of meat I eat, if nothing else.

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