Go green, eat green

Students should strive to consume less meat.

by Meghan O'Connor

If everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese one day a week for a year, the effect on emissions would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road.

If that didn’t get your attention, I don’t know what will. The act of cutting back on meat and dairy consumption means more than losing a few pounds or the personal benefits of it. It can impact global warming and deforestation. 

Last week I hunkered down and watched “Vegucated,” a documentary encouraging the vegan diet. Now, while I am a vegetarian and have been for the past two-and-a-half years, I was unaware of the implications meat production can have on the environment.

Following my  viewing of “Vegucated,” my poor roommates had to endure my long-winded rants about meat production and the lack of emphasis that is placed on its impact. Have you ever learned about the livestock industry’s effect on the environment? I sure hadn’t.

I became a vegetarian to be healthier, eliminating the temptation of fast food out of my diet. While I consider myself to be an animal lover, it was not animal rights that weighed heavily in my decision. In fact, it may have been because I was a new college freshman and wanted to be hip and progressive. Whatever my reasons were, I am truly grateful I made the lifestyle change.

While at times this choice has proven to be difficult, including family holidays or dinner out with friends, it’s documentaries like “Vegucated” that keep me on the right track and solidify my decision to be a vegetarian.

One of the greatest problems with how we obtain our meat and  seafood products is our complete disregard for the environment. For every pound of fish caught, several of those pounds of fish typically go to waste. By the year 2048, all seafood and commercial fish species will be in collapse, meaning these species will see their numbers drop to 10 percent of their highest known population.

According to a U.N. report, the livestock industry takes up more than 30 percent of the world’s usable land and contributes to a fifth of all greenhouse gases.

Each time I speak to someone about the direct impact we have on the environment, specifically due to meat consumption, they immediately jump to questions like, “Well, what can I do?” or “Even if I make a change, how will that help? I’m only one person.”

Yes, that’s true; you are only one person, but if enough people make the change, then it goes beyond just an individual.

If you don’t believe me, hop on to your computer and do a little research. The amount of research available is astounding in comparison to how often this issue is discussed.

As students, we have the opportunity to make a great change. There are about 50,000 of us on campus,— think of the benefits for the environment if we were all to give up meat for at least one day a week. Not to mention the money you will save; meat is expensive — vegetables are not.

So, forget about that Prius Hybrid you were saving up to buy after graduation. Just cut back on meat, and your impact on the environment will be similar.

It starts with the little things, and you can start today.