• Green diets vs. global warming
    Rama Schneider | December 26,2005

    Having one's own personal effect on our growing global warming/climate change crisis is most certainly a multi step program. We often view our choice in automobile as the most efficacious and obvious first move forward, but two assistant professors at the University of Chicago say the gas we want to change may actually be the gastronomic type.

    According to a news short titled It's better to green your diet than your car found at the New Scientist web site the two professors "compared the amount of fossil fuel needed to cultivate and process various foods, including running agricultural machinery, providing food for livestock and irrigating crops". They also counted methane and nitrous oxide produced by cows, sheep and manure handling. (Note: in the print edition of New Scientist, Dec 17-23 edition, the article is titled "Green your diet before your car".)

    The numbers Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin present are somewhat surprising: A typical diet for the United States with about 28% animal based foods is responsible for almost one and a half tons more of carbon dioxide than to a purely vegetarian (vegan) diet ... that's per person each year! In one decade that makes for a difference of 15 tons of climate altering, global warming gasses for just one person. (If vegan isn't for you eating poultry can help reduce your gaseous contribution.)

    Their second set of numbers makes the surprise more evident. According to Eshel and Martin's paper the annual emissions difference between a typical car and a modern hybrid is a little over one ton. Bearing in mind pickups and SUV's aren't considered ... it may be your first and best step in reducing your ecological footprint could be the food you and your family eat.

    This hypothesis is well supported. As E Magazine points out in The Outlook On Oil (E, Jan/Feb, 2006) "the average piece of food travels 1,500 miles before it reaches your plate" and "it takes 10 calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of food eaten in the US." That same article informs us the average car uses up between 27 and 54 barrels of oil even before it leaves the factory floor. Astounding.

    The really, really great news here is we can, if we chose, have an immediate and positive impact on our global environment by doing something that will strengthen our local Vermont community economies. I see that distance travelled by food and what it takes to build a vehicle as the key ... eating locally grown foods can drastically reduce the green house gasses even without giving up the red meats ... fewer miles driven and less trucks for transport ... know what I mean? Imagine what a locally grown diet of veggies and poultry can do!

    All in all it just may be our dietary habits that need reforming first ... and then the car we drive.

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