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Guest Blog: Veganism and the Environment

My wonderful friend Helena is back with another post about veganism and its impact on the environment! Did you know animal agriculture is responsible for more carbon emissions than all transportation combined?  Helena and I met when we both participated in the vegan pledge/mentor program at the beginning of this year. After Helena's post, I'm flashing back to my sushi recipe from December. 

Carbon Offset Your Next Flight

Who knew, animal agriculture is the biggest contributor to global warming! This weekend I read some interesting new (to me) facts, but in truth I have been aware of the link between animals and excess energy consumption for many years.  In fact, armed only with the knowledge that animals are higher on the food chain than plants, one easily recognizes that growing animals for human consumption requires more energy than growing plants for human consumption.

How much more?  The first answer to this question that I came across was a few years back in the book Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air.  In this book the British physicist David MacKay goes through back-of-the-envelope calculations of energy use and sustainable energy production.  It is an amazing book and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the environment—it is also free online at withouthotair.com.  The one result that concerns this post is that according to Prof. MacKay’s very conservative calculations, a vegetarian diet would reduce the average person’s energy consumption by about 9%.  Eating a vegetarian diet is the single most substantial difference that an individual can make—right now!

Yesterday I was discussing with a friend about my recent switch to a vegan diet and I happened to mention global warming.  At the mention of the word, she was reminded of a fact that saddens her deeply: that we will need to reduce air travel to curb rising carbon emissions.

Fortunately, I had good news to share with her: Meat Free Mondays can carbon offset your next flight!

More specifically, let me quote a fact from Becoming Vegan (Global Warming is addressed on pp. 20-22), “The UN estimates that one-fifth of human generated greenhouse gas emissions—9 percent of the CO2, 37 percent of the methane, and 65 percent of nitrous oxide—comes from livestock production.”  Following a few references in this book, I found a presentation by Dr. Pachauri, former chairman of the IPCC, with some more interesting facts, “1 kg of beef is responsible for the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emitted by an average European car every 250 km, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for 20 days.”

So, clearly, lots of reasons to make today a vegan day!  For some ideas on what to cook, you can start by browsing the rest of this blog.  Nicole’s delicious recipes are only occasionally interrupted by my philosophical musings.

-Helena

And now go make some delicious vegetable sushi while you contemplate how you're helping the environment by going meatless :)

What do you do daily to help the environment?


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