Red Ice Membership

Organic and vegan eating spawn good health, sustainable environment
2005 04 19

Carrie Packwood Freeman |

At the April 20 Earth Day festival, you will likely be overwhelmed by the major environmental issues confronting us: preserving wilderness, stopping species extinction, and maintaining clean air and water. Yet, there is one thing little ol' you can do every day to help each of these environmental problems. Drumroll please: Eating plant-based foods, especially organic and those locally grown, and choosing vegan proteins instead of meat, eggs, and dairy, is even more powerful than our current healthy habits of recycling, biking and turning off the water when we brush our teeth. So why not do all these responsible things?

Following the eco-mantra, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," eating vegan proteins like nuts, soy, whole grains, peas and beans is all about Reduction. Veganism reduces the waste of land, forests, plant crops, water, fuel and wildlife, as well as the pollution of water, soil and air. The simplest way to explain it is that animal agribusiness uses the majority of our nation's farmland to raise crops for feeding farm animals. These pesticide-ridden crops use many resources, like fertile soil, water and energy and leave deforestation and desertification in their wake. For the resources we put into raising these crops and the additional water and energy invested in raising, killing and processing animals, we don't get nearly as much in calories or protein out of the resulting animal products. It's an irresponsibly poor return on an investment.

Thousands of people worldwide die daily of hunger-related causes, while we feed over 60 percent of our grains and plants to farm animals. It makes more sense to instead feed people directly with those grains and vegetables.
Compassion in World Farming reports that the world now consumes five times as much meat as it did in the first half of the 20th century. Our current excesses of meat and dairy aren't normal and certainly cannot be sustained. To keep America eating all this excess meat and dairy, factory farms are required. By intensively farming over 10 billion animals annually and consolidating their urine and feces, we are fouling our air and water and ruining our potential for a healthy future. In fact, animal agribusiness is the largest polluter of America's rivers and streams. What's more, big money agribusiness lobbyists are ensuring that the government thinks of its short-term interests and not what's best for the public. Since we live in a market-based economy, that means we as individual consumers need to pick up the slack and financially support more sustainable, plant-based organic foods instead of animal agribusiness. It's up to us.

So next time you're wondering what to get for lunch on campus, bypass Subway and go organic at Holy Cow. Most campuses aren't lucky enough to have such a place. When waiting for the bus, skip the hot dog stand and hit the falafel pita stand instead. Your fork is your most powerful tool for change. How will you wield it?

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