Click on an image below to learn about the environmental impact of your food choices.
You are helping your health and you are helping the health of the earth when you eat lower on the food chain. Fruit requires much less energy to produce and releases much less greenhouse gases to the air. In fact, fruit trees, like all trees, remove CO2 from the air and release oxygen to the atmosphere.
Fruit is high in simple sugars and some experts recommend limiting their consumption to less than three servings per day if you are trying to lose weight. Stick with fresh fruit or make a delicious fruit salad. Avoid canned fruit, packed in heavy corn syrup. The earth and your body will benefit.
Fresh water is scarce on earth, even though you always get water from your tap. California, suffering a severe drought 2014, has produced many stories of people suffering from water shortages. The New York Times had an October 2, 2014 story about an entire town that has no water from taps.
Despite these events, we continue to feed fresh water to livestock. It takes more than 5,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of edible beef and only 20-60 gallons to produce vegetables, fruit and grains. When you choose plants for your diet, you are making a huge impact on your water usage.
When you eat fruit, vegetables, and grains, no animals are directly killed in the production. You know that you are not responsible for the horrible living conditions of factory-farmed animals because you are not tacitly approving of these practices by spending your hare-earned money on products that harm animals.
Many people love their pets. ASPCA sponsors poignant ads on TV showing mis-treated dogs and cats. Our hearts feel for them and many are ready to donate money to help relieve this suffering. However, we rarely think about the suffering of the 70 million farm animals that we kill each year for food. Humans do not need to eat animals to live healthy lives; in fact, there is much evidence that most chronic diseases humans suffer, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity are the result of our consumption of animals as foods.
The Natual Resources Defense Council developed a flyer that describes why choosing fruit is better for the environment. Some relevant facts are shown here:
The "carbon footprint" of hamburger, for example, includes all the fossil fuels that went into producing the fertilizer and pumping the irrigation water to grow the corn to feed the cow, and may also include emmissions that result from converting forest land to grazing land. Meat from ruminant animals (cows, goats, and sheep) has a particularly large carbon footpring because of the methane (a potent global warming gas) released from the animals' digestion and manure. NRDC estimates that if all Americans eliminated just one quarter-pound serving of beef per week, the reduction in global warming would be equivalent to taking four to six million cars off the road.
Seafood can also contribute to significant global warming pollution. Open-ocean fishing fleets depend entirely on dirty fossil fuels, emmitting an estimated 130 million tons of CO2 each year. Highly sought-after large fish stocks like bluefin tuna and imported swordfish are more likely to be overfished, resulting in additonal sea travel and more global warming pollution. These fish are also high in mercury, which can be harmful to human health.
Did you know that only 2.5% of all the water on earth is freshwater that can be used for drinking? Of all the freshwater on earth, 70% of it is in the atmosphere, snow, and glaciers. When we withdraw water from underwater aquifers to feed livestock, we are depleting this valuable resource that will not be renewed in our lifetime or the lifetimes of our grandchildren.
Dr. Richard A. Oppenlander, author of the book "Comfortably Unaware" has written about the depletion of one of our greatest water resources, the Colorado River [p. 42]:
The mighty Colorado River -- 1,400 miles long, with up to 24 million acre feet of annual flow -- is one of the largest and longest in the world. It has been such a force that, over time, it created the Grand Canyon on the way to the Sea of Cortez. Until 1936, when the Hoover Dam was constructed, this river continued its natural path to the ocean in Mexico, where it formed the two-million-acre Colorado River Delta. This delta was once one of the largest in the world, supporting a large population of plants, birds, fish, marine mammals, jaguars, and deer, as well as the descendants of Native Americans who had lived there for over one thousand years. Today, this great delta does not exist; freshwater flows no longer reach it. Unbelievable as it might seem, the mighty Colorado River ends in the desert, some two to three miles from the sea, and has only reached the ocean sporadically over the past eighty years.
This has happened because Americans needed water to fuel their activities in the very dry western states; most of these activities were related to raising cattle ... The water that does eventually make its way to the Mexico desert is now heavily laden with chemicals, such as pesticides and fertilizers, which is runoff from all the alfafa fields in California and Arizona -- alfafa fields that are producing feed for cattle operations.
There are two misconceptions regarding water use of the Colorado River ... One is that water is renewable. To a point it is not ... The second misconception is that the rapidly growing urban areas (Las Vegas, Phoenix, and many others) are the primary users of the river's water supply. They are not. Most of the water has been and is still being used for livestock ... Eighty percent of this irrigated land is for crops to feed livestock.
Melanie Joy wrote a book titled "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows". On page 35, she writes:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that the average American consumes 87 pounds of chicken, 17 pounds of turkey, 66 pounds of beef, and 51 pounds of pork per year. Add to this a pound of veal and a pound of lamb, and each of us eats a total of 223 pounds of meat annually. Given that the current population of the United States is 300 million, that's a lot of meat -- and a lot of animals.
To be exact, U.S. agribusinesses slaughter TEN BILLION animals per year, and that's not including the estimated ten billion fish and other sea animals that are killed annually. That's 19,011 animals per minute, or 317 animals per second. In the time it took you to read these ... paragraphs, nearly 60,000 more animals were killed.
You can avoid this whole violent, bloody business by eating plants.