Becoming a vegetarian is one lifestyle change that will reduce your carbon footprint, but it is not the easiest way. It can be difficult being a vegetarian if you grew up eating meat, especially when a meat dish is typically the main course of family meals. Fortunately limiting meat consumption is just one way to decrease your carbon footprint; there are many smaller (some are just as healthy) lifestyle changes that will also reduce the damage done to the environment.
Fossil fuel burning power plants account for 40% of carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere. Limiting your use of electricity is easy and can greatly decrease your carbon footprint. An easy way to begin cutting back on your electrical use, and bill, is to unplug any appliances that aren’t in use. This includes shutting down the computers every night. An easy way to unplug your appliances when they are not in use is to have them connected to a power strip that can be turned off when not in use. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimates that 5%-10% of residential electricty use is attributed to unused but plugged in appliances. Turning off the air conditioning while out of the home and keeping the blinds closed will help reduce your electric use in the summer. In the winter try shrink wrapping your windows for extra insulation to keep your home warm. Also, wearing warmer clothes indoors and keeping the home a little cooler in the winter will also greatly reduce your carbon footprint.
A healthy way to reduce your carbon footprint is to ride a bike or walk instead of driving whenever possible. Automobiles make up 33% of all emissions in the U.S. For longer commutes try car-pooling with co-workers and friends, or taking advantage of public transportation. If you are looking to buy a new car there have been many advances in the auto industry to make hybrid and electric cars that will both save you money on gas and greatly reduce harmful emissions.
Consuming meat isn’t in itself harmful to the environment, it is America’s concentrated production of livestock that produces an estimated 18% of harmful methane gas. The solution to this problem isn’t to lower the demand of meat by not eating it, but to advocate for solutions to the waste and methane produced in factory farms. Through a drive for profit, modern slaughterhouses have found a use for nearly every piece of an animal, except for its waste. One such solution could be raising cows on a system of rotational grazing. This way, the cows waste is being used to encourage the growth of additional grazing lands. This method may not raise as many plump cows as quickly, but it is more self-sustaning, ethical, and it is good for the enironment.
Use this knowledge to monitor your own personal carbon foot-print. The tips are all easy, but advocating for changes in the American meat industry is a big challenge. Using your awareness of the issue to continue the discussion is an easy way to work towards sustainable and environmentally beneficial agricultural practices.