Curbing Global Warming - Your Everyday Choices Make a Difference!

by Michele McKay

Burning fossil fuels (oil and petroleum) releases CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Here in Hawaii over 90% of the energy we use for electricity and transportation is produced by burning oil!

Reducing CO2 emissions can seem like an overwhelming challenge, but the choices we make in our everyday lives can help curb global warming. If you think you can’t make a difference, check out the results of taking these seven simple actions:

If all the readers* of this article would..

  • ...eliminate one pound of meat from their diet each week
    we would save 41,184,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...unplug their electronics when not in use
    we would save at least 4,745,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...reduce their driving by one mile every day
    we would save 1,752,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...turn the air conditioner thermostat up by 2 degrees in summer
    we would save 4,745,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...wash their clothes in cold water
    we would save 2,400,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...line-dry one load of laundry once a week
    we would save 836,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...replace one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL)
    we would save 730,000 pounds of CO2 per year

And if every reader took all seven actions we would save 56,392,000 pounds of CO2 per year!

Your actions do make a difference! Get started today… our planet will thank you.

For additional information from Hawaii on global warming visit www.climatecorps.org

Footnotes: 

* Based on 4,800 monthly recipients/readers of Down to Earth’s e-newsletter and website. To sign up for our free e-newsletter, visit www.downtoearth.org

Make Every Day Earth Day - And Put the Brakes on Global Warming

by Michele McKay

Global warming - the rising of temperatures across the planet - is caused by human activities associated with industrialization, economic development, and deforestation. The carbon dioxide emissions that result are thinning our earth's ozone layer and trapping heat inside the atmosphere. Global warming has accelerated in the past two decades, and increasing temperatures will gradually cause devastating changes on our planet. Here in the Pacific region, these impacts can be observed in the rising of sea levels and the degradation of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems.

It is possible for each of us to make a difference in the global warming process by helping to reduce fossil fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. You can do your part by following these Every Day = Earth Day practices:

  • Instead of driving alone in your car, join a carpool, take mass transit, walk, or ride a bike – anything that reduces the amount of gasoline you use. For every single gallon of gasoline burned, 20 pounds of carbon dioxide are shot into the atmosphere.
  • When you do drive, keep your car tuned up and its tires properly inflated to save on fuel costs as well as to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
  • The next time you buy a car, choose one that is highly fuel-efficient.
  • Replace inefficient incandescent light bulbs with new compact fluorescent bulbs.
  • Turn off your TV, video player, stereo, computer, lights and fans when you aren't using them.
  • Develop a plan to reduce daily electricity use around your home. Ask each member of your household to take responsibility for a different electricity-saving action.
  • Make an effort to cut down on meat consumption and to buy organic produce.
  • The next time you buy an appliance, purchase an energy-efficient model. Look for the Energy Star rating, awarded by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Install solar rooftop water heating and photovoltaic systems if possible.
  • Move closer to work if feasable. Reducing or eliminating your commute will save time, money, and energy.

Practice the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle to lower overall energy consumption.

Global Warming

by Michele McKay

Global warming is a “hot” topic these days! Is our planet actually heating up? Are humans responsible? Is there cause for concern? Is there anything we can do about it?

Scientists studying climate change know three things for certain:

  • Greenhouse gasses – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide – warm the planet.
  • Human activities are adding greenhouse gasses to our atmosphere.
  • The Earth’s surface temperature is rising.

It is well documented that atmospheric greenhouse gas levels have increased since industrialization, and that the Earth’s surface temperature has been rising in the last 100 years. Major concerns are that the warming rate has sped up in the past 20 years and that atmospheric greenhouse gasses are rapidly increasing due to human activity.

There are some scientific uncertainties related to global warming: How fast will continued warming occur? What will the effects be? Though these questions may not be resolved for years, the potential threats of climate change include coastal flooding, hurricanes and extreme weather events, widespread disease, and species extinction.

Where do greenhouse gasses come from?

About one-fifth of all global greenhouse gas emissions are generated by the United States – that’s 6.6 tons per citizen per year. Of these emissions, nearly 32% come from burning fossil fuels for household electricity and personal transportation. Industry, livestock production, agriculture, and deforestation account for the other 68% of US emissions.

What you can do:

You can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the choices you make in daily life:

  • Turn off lights, electronics, and air conditioners when not in use. Lower water heaters to 120 degrees. Purchase Energy Star rated appliances – they can reduce energy consumption by up to 30%. Install solar water or photovoltaic systems.
  • Carpool, take the bus, ride a bike, or walk rather than driving a car. Keep cars tuned up and tires properly inflated. Only purchase cars that are fuel-efficient.
  • Recycle everything you can. Buy recycled items, such as paper products, whenever possible. Reduce packaging and the use of shopping bags.
  • Adopt a vegetarian diet and buy organic products – the livestock and agriculture industries are huge sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Plant trees – they provide cool shade and absorb carbon dioxide.

Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Green to Go Veggie

by Michele McKay

As we think about Earth Day on April 22nd, many of us might be surprised to learn a very important fact about going veggie. What we choose to eat is one of the most significant factors in the personal impact we have on the environment and the fastest path to climate change. A recent study examining the impact of a typical week’s eating showed that plant-based diets are better for the environment than those based on meat. A vegan, organic diet had the smallest environmental impact while the single most damaging foodstuff was beef. All non-vegetarian diets require significantly greater amounts of environmental resources such as land and water.

It is noteworthy that the United Nations and many leading environmental organizations—including the National Audubon Society, the WorldWatch Institute, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists—have recognized that raising animals for food damages the environment more than just about anything else that we do. Whether it's unchecked air or water pollution, soil erosion, or the overuse of resources, raising animals for food is wreaking havoc on the Earth.

By going vegetarian an individual can help to...

  1. Reduce global warming
  2. Avoid excessive CO2 production
  3. Reduce methane/nitrous oxide production
  4. Save large amounts of water
  5. Avoid further pollution of our streams/rivers/oceans
  6. Reduce destruction of topsoil & tropical rainforest
  7. Reduce destruction of wildlife habitats & endangered species
  8. Reduce use of antibiotics, growth hormones, and chemicals
  9. Reduce ecological footprint
  10. Help ensure environmental sustainability

For better health and the sake of the innocent animals

The environmental arguments for adopting a vegetarian diet are strong, but many vegetarians simply believe that it is wrong to kill when there is no need. Others love and respect animals and want to minimize their suffering. Some vegetarians are specifically opposed to intensive farming and choose vegetarianism because it sends a strong signal, guarantees they won’t be eating an animal reared in appalling conditions, and avoids the distress experienced by all animals slaughtered for their meat. Whatever their reasons for giving up meat, vegetarians benefit from much more than a clear conscience, as they have lower rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

Footnotes: 

“Why it’s green to go vegetarian,” The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom: http://www.vegsoc.org/environment/why%20its%20green%20final%20small.pdf

Go Veggie for the Environment

by Michele McKay

Many readers care deeply about the health of our planet – you make an effort to recycle, to cut energy and water use, and to protect the Earth’s air, water, and ecosystems. But are you aware that your choice of food is the single most important decision you make for the Earth? Eating meat supports the very industry that is causing the greatest environmental destruction worldwide! In choosing a plant-based, vegetarian diet you can elect to:

Help reduce global warming

Raising animals for food generates more ‘greenhouse gas’ than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.1 In addition to CO2, the livestock industry produces other greenhouse gases with even higher global warming potentials: methane (23 times that of CO2), nitrous oxide (300 times that of CO2), and ammonia. And, methane cycles out of the atmosphere in just 8 years, as opposed to 100 years for CO2. Reducing the demand for meat would rapidly lower atmospheric methane, a key contributor to global warming.2

Save vast amounts of water

Producing one pound of beef requires approximately 2,500 gallons of water, whereas a pound of soy requires 250 gallons of water, and a pound of wheat only 25 gallons.

Avoid pollution of waterways

Farmed animals produce about 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population of the US, yet factory farms don't have sewage treatment systems. Manure, antibiotics, growth hormones, fertilizers, pesticides, and other livestock-related pollutants foul our rivers and streams, and enter the human food chain through water supplies.3

Reduce the loss of biodiversity and wildlife habitat

30% of the earth’s entire land surface (or, put another way, 70% of all agricultural land) is used for livestock.4 In the Amazon region, rainforests are being cut and burned to create pastures, thus releasing CO2 and causing incalculable loss of plant and animal species.5

Ensure environmental sustainability

Demand for meat is expected to double by the year 2050. Producing animal flesh requires up to three times as many resources as producing plant-based food.6 Do the math! Pollution, global warming, habitat destruction, species loss, demand for water, and strain on land use will only get catastrophically worse. A vegetarian diet is our best step toward environmental sustainability.

What you can do

Shrink your ecological footprint by going veggie! You will be doing something nice for the planet – and the animals that share it with us – every time you eat.

Footnotes: 
  1. “Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html
  2. EarthSave, “EarthSave Report: “A New Global Warming Strategy: How Environmentalists are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in Our Lifetimes,” Noam Mohr, Aug. 2005: http://earthsave.org/globalwarming.htm
  3. Ed Ayres, "Will We Still Eat Meat?" Time, 8 Nov. 1999: http://www.time.com/time/reports/v21/health/meat_mag.html
  4. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006. Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options. Rome. http://www.virtualcentre.org/en/library/key_pub/longshad/A0701E00.htm
  5. White, T. 2000. Diet and the distribution of environmental impact. Ecological Economics. 34, 145-153.
  6. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006. Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options. Rome: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e00.pdf

United Nations: Livestock Production is Threatening the Environment

by Michele McKay

Those who visit Down to Earth’s website or receive the monthly e-newsletter probably have seen the statement that “The single most important thing an individual can do for the environment is to adopt a vegetarian diet.” The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) agrees: Raising animals for food impacts global warming by generating more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.1 This fact in itself is a powerful argument for a vegetarian diet – but it’s just the beginning!

For more on the subject, let’s go straight to the source and see what the FAO has to say about livestock production:
In its 2006 Spotlight article “Livestock Impacts on the Environment”, the FAO informs us that:

  • “…livestock production is one of the major causes of the world's most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.”
  • “The livestock sector is by far the single largest anthropogenic user of land. Grazing occupies 26 percent of the Earth's terrestrial surface, while feed crop production requires about a third of all arable land. Expansion of grazing land for livestock is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America: some 70 percent of previously forested land in the Amazon is used as pasture, and feed crops cover a large part of the remainder.”
  • “Evidence suggests it is the largest sectoral source of water pollutants, principally animal wastes, antibiotics, hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feed crops, and sediments from eroded pastures. While global figures are unavailable, it is estimated that in the USA livestock and feed crop agriculture are responsible for 37 percent of pesticide use, 50 percent of antibiotic use, and a third of the nitrogen and phosphorus loads in freshwater resources. The sector also generates almost two-thirds of anthropogenic ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems.”
  • “The sheer quantity of animals being raised for human consumption also poses a threat of the Earth's biodiversity. Livestock account for about 20 percent of the total terrestrial animal biomass, and the land area they now occupy was once habitat for wildlife.”

The FAO’s 2008 bulletin “Livestock and Environment” reports that:

  • “…the livestock sector is exerting mounting pressure on the world’s natural resources: grazing land is threatened by degradation; deforestation is occurring to grow animal feed; water resources are becoming scarce; air, soil and water pollution are increasing; and locally adapted animal genetic resources are being lost.”
  • “Clearing of land for feed crop production and expansion of pastures for livestock production has been one of the driving forces behind deforestation. Deforestation causes significant environmental damage, releasing enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and causing the extinction of many animal and plant species each year. Freshwater is becoming increasingly scarce with the livestock sector accounting for nearly one tenth of global human water use. The livestock sector is probably the largest source of water pollution, contributing to eutrophication, ‘dead’ zones in coastal areas and degradation of coral reefs.”

Take it from the United Nations’ own Food and Agriculture Organization – raising animals for slaughter is severely damaging the environment on all fronts. But you can refuse to participate in this destruction. For the sake of the Earth, go veggie!

Footnotes: 
  1. “Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html

Vegetarianism: Cure for Global Warming

by Michael Bond

It is difficult to ignore the grave threats that global warming may someday cause ( coastal flooding, increases in extreme weather, spreading of diseases, and mass extinctions). Yet the mainstream public has managed to ignore the simplest and most practical way to curve global warming – adopting a vegetarian diet.

Contrary to popular belief, CO2 emissions are not the main cause of observed atmospheric warming. There are many other greenhouse gases that trap heat far more powerfully than CO2. Methane is by far the most important non-CO2 greenhouse gas, causing nearly half of the planet’s human-induced warming.

Worldwide, one of the biggest sources of methane is animal agriculture (producing more than 100 million tons of methane a year). About 85 percent of this methane is produced in the digestive processes of cows. While a single cow only releases a relatively small amount of methane, the collective effect on the environment of the world's 1.5 billion cattle is enormous. And meat consumption has increased fivefold in the past fifty years, with no reduction in sight.

A large scale shift to a plant-based diet would lower greenhouse gas emissions more quickly than shifts away from the fossil fuel burning technologies that emit carbon dioxide. Unlike carbon dioxide which can remain in the air for more than a century, methane cycles out of the atmosphere in just eight years. This means that lowering methane emissions may quickly translate to the cooling of the earth.

So what can you do on a practical level?

While polls show that concern about global warming is widespread, most people feel there is little they can do to make a difference. Reducing or eliminating meat consumption is something everyone can do to help reduce one of the largest sources of methane emissions. Vegetarian foods are readily available, and cuts in agricultural methane emissions are achievable at every meal.

The environmental benefits don’t stop there. The same factory farms responsible for these methane emissions also use up most of the country’s water supply, are a leading source of water pollution in the U.S., require a huge amount of fossil fuels to operate, and contribute to deforestation and desertification in order to make range land for cows to feed.

If you want to actually do something about global warming, and be a true environmentalist, become a vegetarian, and encourage others to do the same.

Don’t let nutritional concerns stand in your way, Down to Earth offers a free Vegetarian Nutrition Class to get you started in the right direction.

The Earth Heats Up and Coral Reefs Diminish

While scientists and policy makers have grappled for decades over the hot-button issue of global warming, a groundbreaking new study firmly establishes the fact that the earth is heating up as a result of worldwide industrialization.

The study, published in the April 28, 2005 issue of Science, is led by James Hansen, one of NASA’s top climatologists. Hansen and other researchers, using ocean data collected over a 10-year period, conclusively found that the warming trend of the ocean could not be attributed to natural variation. Rather, the oceanic warming they found fit in precisely with the expected effects of modern industrialization.

How does global warming affect the oceanic habitat and the plants and creatures that reside in the ocean? Coral reefs, which are very sensitive to even small temperature changes in the ocean, are nature’s barometer of oceanic warming. As a result of global warming, scientists have observed the massive bleaching of coral reefs around the globe.

The “bleaching” of coral reefs occurs when coral reefs are stressed by environmental factors and expel the tiny algae that live on them. The algae are important because they give the reefs their color and provide food for them. After a severe bleaching, coral reefs often die.

Coral reefs suffer bleaching as a result of many environmental factors, such as pollution and destructive fishing practices; however warming is perhaps the most important cause of the bleaching of coral reefs. As global warming continues, the bleaching and death of coral reefs around the world may become an unavoidable reality.

Another example of how sensitive ocean creatures are to climate change are phytoplankton, which are microscopic plants that live near the surface of the ocean and use sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates. Phytoplankton are important because they are the foundation of the marine food chain. When surface waters are too warm, this prevents the cooler nutrient-rich waters from swelling up to the surface where the phytoplankton live. If phytoplankton are not able to grow properly, it will disrupt the entire oceanic food chain.

While the ocean is able to absorb a great deal of heat without a large temperature change, we can see that the creatures that live in the ocean are greatly affected by even these minute temperature increases. So far, the ocean surface temperatures around the world have risen by an average of .9 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists predict at least another degree of warming over the next 100 years – even without further greenhouse emissions. Warming could also occur much more quickly if protective policies are not implemented.

The best way to help prevent continued global warming is by adopting an earth-conscious lifestyle – the most important step being to move towards a vegetarian diet. Few people realize that one third of the earth’s fossil fuels are used to raise animals for food. Gradually eliminating flesh foods from our diet is the simplest way to help conserve energy and preserve the environment. For more tips on how you can help protect our oceans, check out the Make Everyday Earth Day and Health Tips sections of our website.

Vegetarian Solution - Part 2

by Michael Bond

A real environmentalist does not eat meat. Rather, they understand that raising animals for food is wreaking havoc on the Earth by polluting and depleting our land, water, and air and they want no part of it. Read on and you will see why the most important step you can take to save the planet is to go vegetarian.

Global Warming

According to a United Nations report in 2006, raising animals for food is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” There’s a lot of talk about curbing global warming by reducing carbon emissions. But surprising very few people are presenting the fact that mainstream acceptance of a vegetarian diet would have a huge impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions (of both CO2 and methane). In fact, on the basis of carbon emissions, adopting a vegan diet actually does more to reduce emissions than driving a hybrid car. That is because every single stage of meat production involves heavy pollution, massive releases of greenhouse gases, and massive amounts of energy.

Destruction of Rainforests and Forest Land

Would you clear 55 square feet of rainforest just to eat a hamburger? That is about what it takes if you are consuming meat imported from South America. An area of rainforest the size of seven football fields is destroyed every minute to make room for grazing cattle. When rainforests are destroyed, so is a rich variety of plant life and entire species of wildlife. And it’s not just the rainforests that are vanishing, in the United States, more than 260 million acres of forest have been clear-cut just for animal agriculture. Conversely, by choosing to be a vegetarian, you alone would save one acre of trees every year.

Pollution

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the run-off from factory farms pollutes our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined. Livestock produces 130 times the amount of waste as all the people in the United States. Since there are no federal guidelines that regulate how factory farms treat, store, and dispose of it, this untreated and unsanitary waste ends up polluting our water, destroying our topsoil, and contaminating our air.

Water Supplies

In the United States, we are rapidly depleting our underground aquifers faster than they are being replenished. Nearly half of all the water used in the United States goes to raising animals for food. Consider this: a totally vegetarian diet requires only 300 gallons of water per day, while a meat-eating diet requires more than 4,000 gallons of water per day. In other words, for every pound of beef you don’t eat, you are saving more water than you would by not showering at all for almost an entire year.

There are so many great meat-free options available; you will not miss out on anything by switching to a vegetarian diet. Simply by changing the food on your plate, you have the power to change the world for the better. If you care about the environment, go vegetarian.

Footnotes: 

At Down to Earth, we have held true to our values and our vegetarian commitment for over 25 years. Vegetarianism is a choice each of us can make to improve our health and the health of the environment and we feel it is our duty to educate people about the countless benefits of a plant-based diet.

If you would like to become a vegetarian, but are not sure where to start, we will do everything we can to help you. Come to our free vegetarian nutrition classes and vegetarian cooking classes, take a guided tour of our store, and be sure to take advantage of the awesome vegetarian recipes on our website.

Vegetarianism: Cure for Global Warming

by Michael Bond

It is difficult to ignore the grave threats that global warming may someday cause ( coastal flooding, increases in extreme weather, spreading of diseases, and mass extinctions). Yet the mainstream public has managed to ignore the simplest and most practical way to curve global warming – adopting a vegetarian diet.

Contrary to popular belief, CO2 emissions are not the main cause of observed atmospheric warming. There are many other greenhouse gases that trap heat far more powerfully than CO2. Methane is by far the most important non-CO2 greenhouse gas, causing nearly half of the planet’s human-induced warming.

Worldwide, one of the biggest sources of methane is animal agriculture (producing more than 100 million tons of methane a year). About 85 percent of this methane is produced in the digestive processes of cows. While a single cow only releases a relatively small amount of methane, the collective effect on the environment of the world's 1.5 billion cattle is enormous. And meat consumption has increased fivefold in the past fifty years, with no reduction in sight.

A large scale shift to a plant-based diet would lower greenhouse gas emissions more quickly than shifts away from the fossil fuel burning technologies that emit carbon dioxide. Unlike carbon dioxide which can remain in the air for more than a century, methane cycles out of the atmosphere in just eight years. This means that lowering methane emissions may quickly translate to the cooling of the earth.

So what can you do on a practical level?

While polls show that concern about global warming is widespread, most people feel there is little they can do to make a difference. Reducing or eliminating meat consumption is something everyone can do to help reduce one of the largest sources of methane emissions. Vegetarian foods are readily available, and cuts in agricultural methane emissions are achievable at every meal.

The environmental benefits don’t stop there. The same factory farms responsible for these methane emissions also use up most of the country’s water supply, are a leading source of water pollution in the U.S., require a huge amount of fossil fuels to operate, and contribute to deforestation and desertification in order to make range land for cows to feed. If you want to actually do something about global warming, and be a true environmentalist, become a vegetarian, and encourage others to do the same.

Footnotes: 

Don’t let nutritional concerns stand in your way, Down to Earth offers a free Vegetarian Nutrition Class to get you started in the right direction.

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