Protect the Parks: food for thought

By Jane Park

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In February, I went beef-free out of environmental awareness. I have always cared about the environment, so I decided to make a change. People ask why I don’t go fully vegetarian, because if I cared so much about the earth why wouldn’t I go to extreme lengths to save it? 

According to a study by Carnegie Mellon University, beef emits 19.18 pounds of greenhouse gases for every 1,000 calories. However, lettuce is not far behind, emitting 18.67 pounds. Lettuce generates roughly three times the carbon emissions than pork. This is because lettuce is difficult to grow, harvest and transport. ”

We all associate vegetarianism with being better for the environment and health. In fact, of the eight million adults in the US that are vegetarian, 10 percent changed their lifestyle to reduce their impact on the environment, and 20 percent did it to have a healthier diet, according to the Humane Research Council. 

The reality is, that with such diets on the rise, we need to research if this lifestyle is actually beneficial for both the environment and our bodies.

When I went beef-free, I was under the assumption that eating beef was worse for the environment than any other meat. I had always been told that beef production emits large amounts of carbon dioxide, even larger than agriculture. 

This was partially true. According to a study by Carnegie Mellon University, beef emits 19.18 pounds of greenhouse gases for every 1,000 calories. However, lettuce is not far behind, emitting 18.67 pounds. Lettuce generates roughly three times the carbon emissions than pork. This is because lettuce is difficult to grow, harvest and transport. 

“You can’t just assume that a vegetarian diet will reduce your carbon footprint, which is what people think,”  Paul Fischbeck, professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, said. 

Cutting beef (and later, seafood as well) from my diet has made my life a little more difficult. I can’t eat a lot of foods my friends offer me, and I have either accidentally or had no choice but to eat beef several times since February. This sort of unnecessary dietary change may seem impractical, but if it’s making an impact on the dumpster fire that is our world, I am content. 

So what’s my point? I care enough to change my diet to lessen my environmental impact. Yes, I’m not a vegetarian, but research shows that vegetarians aren’t completely off the hook either. I’m using alternative methods to decrease my carbon footprint, like biking to school and using reusable bags and water bottles. That’s my touch on the world.

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