Vegetarianism often conjures up the image of animal rights supporters. However, it can go further than the ethical treatment of animals. Environmental vegetarianism is a form of diet where the chief concern is the impact of meat production on our planet.
From the land use in raising livestock and building factories, to the transportation of the meat products, to the refrigeration and marketing of the products, an omnivore’s diet uses considerably more land and energy resources than that of a vegetarian diet.
Taking into consideration all aspects of meat production from the raising of the livestock to the storage in grocery stores, livestock contributes 18% of greenhouse gas emissions in CO2 equivalence . It is a combination of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. According to a New Scientist article, one kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gases than driving your car for more than three hours .
Pollution begins with the raising of livestock. Land is set aside for the cultivation of livestock wherein they further deplete the land of carbon offsetting plants through grazing.
In the next step, more emissions are released into the atmosphere through the production phase with slaughtering and packaging by use of fossil fuels. The next sector, transportation of the meat products, contributes more greenhouse gases before it is distributed to the stores. Upon reaching grocery stores, even more energy is needed to refrigerate the meats.
A vegetarian diet uses less land by reducing the need of large factories. Additionally, local produce requires shorter distance to transport from farm to market. Upon arrival at the grocery stores, produce items need considerably less refrigeration than meat products. By participating in a vegetarian diet, even once a week, we can cut back on the environmental degradation of an omnivore diet.
You may not be against eating meat for ethical reasons but this Monday, why not try cutting meat out of your diet for the environment? Meatlessmonday.com is a website geared towards cutting out meat one day a week and features many delicious recipes.
Furthermore, Austin is a city full of delicious vegetarian options.
 Steinfeld, H. (2006). Livestock’s long shadow: Environmental issues and options. FAO. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM
 Fanelli, D. “Meat Is Murder on the Environment,” New Scientist 18 Jul. 2007.