If the thought of ‘Meatless Mondays’ makes you roll your eyes and think of the barefoot hippie vegan that practices yoga in the park, then you may not like what I have to say, but regardless of that, you need to hear it. According to the Dieticians of Canada, only four percent of Canadians live a vegetarian lifestyle. Whether it is for animal cruelty reasons, taste or health benefits, the difference in their carbon footprint compared to the average Canadian that sits down to their thick, juicy meat every night is almost half.
Many people are unaware of the impact that eating meat has on our environment. It takes almost 1,250 gallons of water to produce one eight ounce steak, and the livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse emissions, about 40 percent more than all modes of transportation in the world combined. There is enough fossil fuel used in the production of one hamburger to drive a small car 20 kilometres, so why do so many people still eat a meat-driven diet? David Pimentel, an ecologist from Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences reports that, “If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million.”
It has been recorded that soil erosion due to growing livestock feed is 40 billion tonnes per year. 55 percent of the erosion that causes sedimentation comes from animal agriculture, and this increases the amount of dust in the wind, polluting our air with nitrogen and phosphorous and emitting hydrogen sulfide, something that has been proven to cause brain damage. Livestock have also been linked to the contribution of acid rain by being responsible for almost two thirds of anthropogenic ammonia emissions, something that contributes to soil acidification and oxygen depletion.
I’m not saying we should all jump on the vegetarian bandwagon and ban meat from our kitchens and diets, but I do think that a small change can go a long way. Picking one day a week where you and your family decide to go meatless or even swap out one meal a day for a vegetarian friendly option can make a huge impact. Buying local can also cut down the amount of emissions meat production creates as the average meal travels 1200km before it gets to your plate. By buying local and organic produce, you are supporting your community while reducing your own carbon footprint.