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Local Limelight: Weeklyish Articles Of Interest

Save The Environment: Become a Vegetarian!
By: Sara Ebrahimy

The votes are in: becoming a vegetarian (or better yet, a vegan!) is the best thing a person can do for the environment.

The Environmental Protection Agency has conducted hundreds of studies researching the links between meat-eating and the environment since it's founding in 1970, and they are not alone. PETA, as well as many organizations throughout Europe and Asia, advocate famously for vegetarianism as a way to protect the planet.  The facts are out there, but for whatever reason, abstaining from hamburgers never seems as heroic as it actually is...

The arguments that convinced me to abstain from meat didn't give yawning statistics, or vertigo-inducing tales of animal cruelty, they didn't need to! It turns out that the biggest eye opener is simply looking at the environmental impact of eating just one single pound of meat.

In one article, I found that eating 1lb of beef is the same as driving an SUV 40 miles.

Another article, referencing John Robbins, author of The Food Revolution, claims that I would save more water by not eating a pound of beef than I would by not showering for an entire year!  I am, I should point out, FAAAAR more willing to not eat at McDonald's once then I am to reek for a year. I just thought I'd throw that out there.

The single-pound statistics don't end there; I also learned that, with the grain it took to make my 7oz steak, 50 people could eat bowls filled with cooked grain cereal. If there's one thing I am not willing to do, it is let 50 people starve so that I can eat one delicious steak!

Even abstaining from chicken has a big impact. An article quoting Environmental Defense claims that if every American replaced one meal of chicken per week with vegetarian substitutes, it would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.

The logic driving these studies is simple: fewer factory farms equals fewer resources wasted and less waste emitted. In order to produce meat, many animals need to be fed many millions of pounds of grain daily that could be sold as food for people. These same animals then produce millions of tons of waste, which not only releases epic amounts of methane (I know, it's gross) into the air, contributing to the greenhouse gas emissions, but also pollutes the water supply and destroys the topsoil.

A British group called Vegfam illuminates the inefficience of livestock farming in their 10-acre farm study. According to Vegfam, a 10-acre farm growing soybeans could support 60 people, 10 acres of wheat could support 24 people, 10 acres of corn could support 10 people, and 10 acres of cattle could support 2 people.

Now, I understand that the decision to become a vegetarian is not an easy one, but with the increase in production of delicious meat-substitutes, the lifestyle has never been tastier! I personally highly recommend Morningstar's chix patties, veggie bites, and buffalo wings. Tofurky dogs and sausages make great meals when you just need to toss something on the grill, and Yves makes a great ground-beef substitute (which is economically friendly too, costing far less than its actual beef), so you'd never even have to give up hamburger helper nights... you know, if that's your thing.

Many people, especially parents, worry that the vegetarian diet would not be adequate for their families. This, however, is only a problem if you subtract meat and continue eating a diet filled only with overly-processed junk food. Any reasonably balanced diet can be vegetarian without any risk of malnutrition. Meat does pack a nice protein punch, but other foods almost as high in protein as meat include: potatoes, whole wheat bread, broccoli, rice, spinach, almonds, peas, chickpeas, lentils, peanut butter, tofu, soy-milk, and kale.  Additionally, vegetarian meals, even those made with meat substitutes instead of just vegetables, tend to be far lower in saturated fats and calories, making them a healthier choice all around.

The Portland-Area is ideal for the vegetarian lifestyle. A couple of my friends, who visited recently from San Francisco, nicknamed Portland "Vegan Valhalla," and with good reason. We have no shortage of vegan (abstaining from meat as well as all animal products, such as milk products and honey) eateries. And delicious ones, I might add. Vita Café in NE Portland is an old favorite of mine, as well as The Blossoming Lotus in the Pearl District. And for quick bowls, burritos, and smoothies, The Laughing Planet Cafe's many locations can't be beat. Hey, we even have a vegan strip club! I've never been, but I'm told the appetizers are amazing.

Portland is also the home of Northwest VEG, a great organization committed to supporting people who want to become vegetarians. Their website is filled with information on the environmental and health benefits of vegetarianism, networking opportunities for other vegetarians, and even discounts at local vegetarian and vegan restaurants!

For those of you who can't commit to a full switch to the vegetarian lifestyle, I highly recommend searching out organic meats whenever possible. A Swedish study in 2003 discovered that cattle raised organically and free-range emits 40% less greenhouse gasses, and consumes 85% less energy. Organic meats are also more healthy for you, as they are free of antibiotics and added hormones, and carry no risk of mad cow disease as organically raised farm animals aren't forced to become cannibals.

So give vegetarianism some thought, and in the meantime, stick with those happy organic cows. The earth thanks you.


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