Putting Earth Day on your menu

supplied by Earthsave
his past April marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Earth Day celebration. Since the first observance, "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle" has become part of the vocabulary and daily routine for many Americans. But as we plant more trees with our children, collect trash with neighbors and sort garbage in our homes, we risk overlooking one of our greatest assets for promoting environmental restoration and balance: the fork. Today, the types of food we choose have a much more profound impact on our planet's well-being than our choice between paper, cloth or plastic.
Food production in this country, particularly the increasing emphasis on factory farming, consumes vast amounts of natural resources and exacts a steep environmental toll. Nowhere is the impact more destructive and far-reaching than in the production of animal products, from beef and poultry to fish and dairy.

What's the beef?

Consider, for example, the cost in water. Animal production accounts for nearly 50 percent of all water used in the United States. While you may have changed the way you water your lawn and installed low-flow shower heads to conserve water, you might not realize that each pound of beef you consume required 2,500 gallons of water to produce. That's the equivalent of showering five minutes each weekday for six months at a flow rate of four gallons per minute.
And water isn't the only facet of our world impacted by animal husbandry. Overfishing has depleted fish stocks in some of the richest seas to a point where they may never recover. Twenty-five percent of the rainforests felled in Central America are cleared to create pasture land for cattle. Cattle production is the primary contributing factor in desertification, a process rendering land unproductive worldwide at a rate of 52 million acres annually.
Ironically, the consumption of cholesterol- and fat-laden animal products raised in these ecologically costly endeavors are not only unnecessary for proper nutrition, but places human health in jeopardy. Contrary to popular belief, the protein needs of the human body are quite modest. They can easily be met following a varied plant-based diet with adequate calories for weight and activity level. Diets high in animal products have helped make coronary heart disease the number one killer of Americans. In the United States alone, we spend $135 billion annually to treat heart disease.
There are also social costs of devoting natural resources to animal production. While half the world's grain harvest is fed to livestock, millions die of malnutrition and starvation. If Americans simply reduced their intake of meat by 10 percent (i.e., one additional meatless meal every 10 days), the savings in land, water and energy could sustain 100 million people.
Our environmental problems can seem so large that it is hard to envision how one person can make a difference. This year, as you and your family are sorting and conserving, you can begin to make a difference each time you raise your forks.
For further information and complete references, contact EarthSave at (800) 362-3648.

This information provided by EarthSave and the Earth Day Network, PO Box 9827, San Diego CA 92169.