According to NASA, Earth´s surface temperatures of
2016 were the warmest since the recordkeeping started in 1880. The trends that
Earth´s temperatures have been suffering indicate that if there is not a stronger
action to combat climate change, in future years we will continue to have a new
record until the consequences are too negative. Therefore, it is urgent to take
action and act responsibly by reducing activities that have a negative impact on
our climate. For doing so, we do not need to set our targets far from our
houses. Sometimes, when people think about climate change solutions the common
answers focus on renewable energy, recycling, or even planting trees in communities
far from home. All these solutions are viable and correct; however, there is
one factor that contributes in a great measure to the green house effect, is
part of our daily lives, and we often overlook: our food.
Have you ever thought that one of the most significant contributors to climate change might be at your kitchen table, school cafeteria or favorite restaurant? The way we eat is a double edged sword. It may help to keep the earth´s temperature below 2° C or, on the contrary, increase it. As a matter of fact, not all food production has an equal effect on the environment. Agriculture contributes to greenhouse gases, but not in a big an alarming way as the production and consumption of food derived from animals, such as, meat and dairies do. Certainly, animal-based meals provoke many adverse effects on the environment. For explaining so, we will analyze livestock production, the use of water and transportation.
To begin with, livestock production generates a significant amount of greenhouse gases a year, more specifically around 6 billion tons (Herrero, 2016). Nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane are the main gases that the productions release. The effect they have on the environment are in some cases equivalent to the one that cars and trucks emit together. Additionally, the waste of livestock is usually not treated correctly, going to our oceans, generating more gases and causing a more negative impact.
Moreover, the water for livestock is used inefficiently when compared to plant- based food. Livestock needs about 15,000 liters for a kilo of beef when for producing a kilo of wheat only 1250 liters are needed (JLP, 2013). The difference is evident, and when more than a billion people lack access to clean water, wasting it should not be an option. Besides affecting humans, wasting water also causes problems to ecosystems that depend from it for their species to live. Also, we are leaving future generations with less available clean and fresh water!
Finally, let´s not leave behind the fact that the livestock transportation also contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases. As it was mentioned previously, these emission sometimes compare to the addition of trucks and cars´ together. Where our food comes from definitely matters; therefore, we should also focus on responsible local consumption to reduce our environmental footprint.
After reading this, you might be wondering what you should do as an individual to solve such a massive environmental problem. You might even be thinking that I will ask you to be a vegetarian. However, even though I would love for all of us to turn vegetarian, being realistic, for persons that have had meat-based meals during their whole lives recommending this is very extreme. Therefore I will leave three very simple, but effective advises that will make a difference and help to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goal 13 and 12 without the need of having only vegetarian meals.
1.Reduce the amount of meat and dairy in your diet.
2.Eat more vegetables, fruits and plant- based meals.
3.Buy food in a more conscious way, this requires that you know about production processes and prefer to buy local. If you grow your own food do it responsibly!
Just by doing these small actions you are making a big contribution. When a person eats more plant-based meals or, even better, follow vegetarian diets their production of CO2 is reduced by almost 50% Therefore, next time that you order à la carte or buy something for cooking at home make sure you are not contributing to climate change by taking wise decisions.
Bibliography:Greenpeace. (2017). Greenpeace. From Eating Less Meat, More Plants Helps the Environment