Our planet is in trouble. We may hope and wish that a Captain Planet type figure will swoop in to save us all but, unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen: we have to be our own Captain Planet.
How do you do that, adult kids? By changing your lifestyle. We have heard this news time and time and time again but, unless you’re changing how you live, you might as well be patting Donald “Hoggish Greedly” Trump on the back for pulling out of the Paris Agreement. Yes, it may seem like a big giant hopeless mess but it really isn’t: if you change how you interact with the world, the world will thank you and change too.
There are many ways you can do this. Focus on clean energy and be smarter about how you drive (or, you know, stop driving and use public transportation, bike, or walk). Buy smarter when it comes to things like clothing, opting for pre-worn clothing over the disaster of fast fashion. But one of the biggest, most painful, closest-to-home things we can do is change how we eat. It is a sad reality. It is unfortunate. Food is good, food is comfort, food is what we are—but it is also a monster of waste that is driving the planet into the sun.
If you want to make a change, here is a simple offering that I know you are going to hate: change your diet and eat less meat. In addition to eating everything on your plate and in your fridge, eat less meat—or no meat at all! Why? Because it takes a fuck ton of resources to raise animals that are going to ultimately be eaten.
As the New York Times noted in 2015—
According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon, a typical household that replaces 30 percent of its calories from red meat and dairy with a combination of chicken, fish and eggs will save more carbon than a household that ate entirely local food for a full year.
Yes, eating nothing but locally grown fruits and vegetables would reduce your carbon footprint the most. But for people not ready to make that leap, reducing how much meat you eat matters more than going local.
See? It’s good all around—and it doesn’t “have” to be local farmers market shit. Moreover, focusing on vegetables and the like with sparse animal product intake is better for your health. This is a win-win.
We can take this a step further, narrowing in on how specific meats that are better for the environment. One thing that I want to challenge myself on, one thing that pains me to say, is that we have to stop eating chicken. Yes, we have heard over the years that chicken are most effective but consider this: when you kill an animal, the resources they required go with it—and you eat much more chickens than cows in a year.
Activist and vegan Matt Ball turned me onto this via a feature on Vox. Ball understands that it is difficult to up and quit meat to save the world but it is possible to indulge in meats as a treat instead of an everyday, all the time thing.
But maybe don’t focus on chicken as your meat substance of choice. Ball explains.
Every year, the average American eats twenty-three birds, a third of a pig, and a tenth of a cow. It currently takes about 193 birds (chickens + turkeys) to provide the same number of meals as one steer. It takes fifty-six birds to equal one pig.
Yeeeeesh: that’s a lot of fucking food being shoveled at something that, you know, could stay alive and produce eggs. It’s less about animal suffering (Which is understandable.) but more about considering what goes into making the food you eat the food you eat. For chickens, it is a pit of eating before the eating begins on your behalf.
Yes, it will be a difficult change for us all. No, I don’t want to give up my beloved fried chicken treats. But you know what? I want to do the next generations a solid by skipping the birds so that future generations will be able to exist and occasionally indulge as well.
There is a lot we can do to solve this problem—and much of this involves taking action with our mouths.