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Going Green with Food: Interview with Comfortably Unaware Author Dr. Richard Oppenlander

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Going green at home must not be expensive or time-consuming. Find out how.

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"A healthy attitude is contagious, but don't wait to catch it from others, be a carrier!" Tom Stoppard

Looking for the best foods to provide your daily essential nutrients? Our food nutrition chart has all the answers and some surprising facts!

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Do you want to eat healthy but keep your budget low? It's possible!

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Going green with food is much more effective and cheaper than all clean energy solutions - find out why

meat reduction saves CO2

Going green with food is the single best action you can do that is more effective than all others in fighting global warming. And this means to avoid or reduce the consumption of animal products wherever possible.

A Worldwatch Institute study from 2009 found that the meat, egg, and dairy industries now contribute up to 51% of greenhouse gases worldwide! This is far more than the formerly assumed 18%, as various contributors had been overlooked and data was based on research from 2002 at that time. At 51%, factory farming produces more than 3 times the greenhouse gases of all transportation worldwide combined (14%).

Courtesy Compassion in World Farming:
Video about livestock's impact on the environment.

In fact if you are going green with food, you can save 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year if you cut animal products from your diet - this is 25% more than the 1 ton of CO2 saved by switching to a hybrid car (3). Going green with food by adjusting your diet towards vegetarian also costs much less than all other clean energy solutions - many of which will still take years to become viable alternatives.

More and more people are becoming conscious about global warming and its effects on the environment and, moreover, making a conscious attempt to reduce their impact. Whether it's by driving a hybrid car or by replacing the parts in your outdated appliances, like on this site where you can find information on repairs and maintenance for these.

However, going green with food is the single best action you can do, which is more effective than all others in fighting global warming! And this means to avoid or reduce the consumption of animal products wherever possible.

If every American skips one meal of meat per week and chooses vegetarian foods instead, the greenhouse gases savings would be the same as taking half a million cars off US roads (18).

Many of us are going green by recycling our paper or using energy-saving light bulbs, but eating meat is the most inefficient and resource-intensive thing we do. Eating green means eating vegetable foods.

If we Americans eat green and cut our meat consumption, our oil problems would be drastically reduced. The average American consumes more than 200 pounds of meat per year - or more than 1/2 pound per day (2). This choice to support industrial factory farming is devastating for the environment. It accelerates global warming and drains a plentiful food supply for future generations and for the rest of the world.

You can save more water by not eating one pound of beef than you do by not showering for an entire year (2)

Going green with food on one meat-free day per week is achievable for even the most ardent meat-lover, and the rewards are enormous - for your health, for our planet, for the animals. You as the consumer have the power to choose what you eat and what you buy - you don't need to let the food industry dictate your nutrition and sabotage your health. Pick sustainable foods and eat green!

Skip Meat Just One Day Per Week And You Achieve This:

(All calculations for going green with food below are based on 1/2 pound of daily meat consumption, which is the US average. The going green savings listed here are weekly.)

  • environment_iconSave almost as many greenhouse gases as switching from a standard to a hybrid car (3).
  • environment_icon1/2 pound of beef per day is responsible for the equivalent amount of CO2 emitted by an average car every 38 miles. You can light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 5 days with these going green savings (4).
  • going green with food

  • environment_iconSave 2,000 gallons of water per day - that is what it takes to make 1/2 pound of beef. (2)
  • environment_iconSave 8 pounds of grain used for 1/2 pound of meat production. With these sustainable food savings the amount of grain can feed a person in a third-world country for three months! (5)
  • environment_iconSave 110 square feet of rain forest when skipping one meat meal per week. Millions of land acres are converted for grazing livestock and growing feed crops, which adds to global warming causes (8).
  • environment_icon

    manure lagoon overflow
    manure lagoon overflow

    Reduce over 5 pounds of animal manure per week, which is highly toxic with the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. Farm animal manure is held in lagoons that often spill over, which leads to pollution of rivers and land. (35) Going green with food means less pollution and less sickness of our population.
  • environment_iconSave 1/4 gallon of gasoline. Conventional farms use oil-based fertilizers and pesticides for crops. Fuel is also used to transport and refrigerate meat and crops. If you eat green and go meat-free one day a week you can save 1/4 gallon of gasoline (7).
  • environment_iconSave 1.2 square feet of topsoil erosion, which occurs when food animals are densely packed into small spaces. Once topsoil is gone it can take many years to rebuild a few inches(9).
  • environment_icon
    farmed fish
    fish "aquafarm"
    Help the oceans which are polluted and over-fished
    . Farmed fish is not the answer for going green with food either - they are fed with wild fish and produce high amounts of waste that leads to further pollution (10).
  • environment_iconSave a few of the over 10 billion animals slaughtered by factory farming for food every year in the US alone. Most of these animals have no laws to protect them from abuse and cruelty. They spend their entire lives suffering in inhumane conditions and mistreatment (6).
  • environment_iconAnd besides helping the planet by going green with food, you do something good for your health! A vegetarian diet, even one day a week will help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, etc.

Animal Factory Farming - The Facts

The happy cow picture on the milk carton and grazing chickens on the egg box are far from reality. If you think you're going green with food by buying cage free or free range chicken or eggs - think again.

Factory farms across the world hold thousands of cows, pigs, and chickens in intensive confinement where they are mutilated, overbred, and kept alive only with extensive use of chemical drugs and hormones.

The conditions in these farms are often filthy at best, and veterinarian care for sick animals is rare.

Despite of the despicable living conditions for farm animals and the frequent animal welfare and environmental violations, factory farming operations are loosely regulated and highly subsidized by a government fearful of the political impact of large agriculture and mega food industries.

Eating a vegan diet without any animal ingredients is the most efficient going green method: it prevents the equivalent of 1.5 tons CO2 emissions every year - more than the 1 ton CO2 emissions prevented by switching to a hybrid car (1)

Factory Farming Wastes Energy

  • One-third of all the raw materials and fossil fuels used in the US go to raising food animals. (15)
  • Eating one pound of meat emits the same greenhouse gases as driving an SUV for 40 miles (16). This is how much difference going green with food can make!
  • The annual cost of environmental damage and global warming causes by industrial farming in the US is estimated at $34.7 billion (17).
meat production energy use
Courtesy of treehugger.com: meat production energy use

Factory Farming Wastes Water

  • More than 50% of the water used in the US today goes into animal agriculture (2). To obtain sustainable food, the water should only be used for crop growth and not for animal processing.
  • The livestock sector accounts for over 8% of global human water use, mostly for the irrigation of feed crops. It is probably the largest source of water pollution that contributes to "dead zones" in coastal areas, degradation of coral reefs, human health problems, emergence of antibiotic resistance, and many others (10).
  • It takes between 2,500 - 4,000 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat, while growing 1 pound of soy needs 250 gallons and a pound of wheat only requires 25 gallons of water (12). if you consider going green and save water, eat green(s)!

Factory Farming Wastes Land And Is Responsible For Deforestation

  • 70% of previously forested land in the Amazon is now occupied by pastures and has fallen victim to deforestation. Feed crops cover a large part of the remainder, which adds to global warming causes (9).
  • Livestock now use 30% of the earth's entire land surface, mostly permanent pasture. This also includes 33% of the global arable land used to produce feed crops (9).
  • Of all the agricultural land in the US, nearly 80% is used in some way to raise animals - that's roughly half of the total land mass of the US (20).
  • 20% of pasture land is considered degraded through overgrazing, compaction and erosion (9). The land would already need many years to recover when going green with sustainable food now - but any later will be disastrous.
  • The Amazon deforestation is so grave that an area of rain forest as large as seven football fields is destroyed every minute to make room for grazing cattle. This contributes greatly to further emission of greenhouse gases (19).
  • More than 260 million acres of US forests have been cleared and deforested to create land for farm animal feedcrop (19).
Amazon deforestation for soy
Amazon deforestation for soy fields in Brazil

Factory Farming Wastes Grain And Natural Food Sources

  • The world's cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people - more than the entire human population on Earth. About 20% of the world's population, or 1.4 billion people, could be fed with the grain and soybeans fed to US cattle alone (13). If Americans consider going green with less meat we would be able to feed more people.
  • Farmed animals consume 70% of all the grains that we grow, and even 80% of the total world's soy crop (14). Sustainable food means the crops are fed directly to the people!
  • Even farmed fish must be fed 5 pounds of wild-caught fish to produce one pound of farmed fish flesh (2). Going green does not mean to switch from land to water animals either.
  • It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef, 7 pounds to make one pound of pork, and 2-6 pounds to produce one pound of poultry or eggs (5).
  • Animal feed requires almost 10 times the crops that it would take to feed vegetarians. If we eat green, the world population could be fed comfortably for years to come.
  • All animals require many times more calories in the form of grain, soybeans, oats, and corn, than they can return in the form of animal flesh for human meat-eaters.

Factory farming is largely responsible for greenhouse gases emissions, air and water pollution, waste of land and resources, and decline of bio diversity.

Factory Farming Pollutes Air And Water

  • According to the U.N., the meat, egg, and dairy industries account for a staggering 65% of worldwide nitrous oxide greenhouse gases, which are 296 times as warming as CO2 (29).
  • The livestock industry alone is responsible for 37% of human-induced methane greenhouse gases, which are 26 times more warming than CO2 (33).
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that farm animal excrements have polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 US states and contaminated groundwater in 17 US states. Besides the environmental problems caused by farmed animal waste, the dangerous fecal bacteria from farm sewage, including E. coli, can also cause serious illness in humans (22).
  • Animal excrements emit greenhouse gases that poison the air around farms. Some of these gases are substantially more warming than carbon dioxide: methane gas 26 times more and nitrous oxide gas 296 times more (9).
  • Factory farming is responsible for 37% of pesticide contamination, 50% of antibiotic contamination, and one-third of the nitrogen and phosphorus loads found in freshwater (9).
  • Farmed animals produce 130 times more excrement than the human US population and the run-off from their waste is contaminating the waterways (23).
  • Agricultural runoff has killed millions of fish, and is the main reason why 60% of US rivers and streams are "impaired". The run-off from factory farms pollutes our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined (21).
  • Roughly 80% of ammonia emissions in the US come from animal waste (24).
  • The data indicates that the pollution strength of raw manure is 160 times greater than raw municipal sewage - a heavy hitter in global warming causes (26).
  • A pig farm with 5,000 animals produces as much fecal waste as a city of 50,000 people (25).

factory farm manure runoff
Courtesy of USDA: factory farm manure runoff

Factory Farming Is Responsible For Loss Of Bio Diversity

  • 15 out of 24 important ecosystem services are assessed as in decline, with livestock dentified as a culprit (9). Going green by eating less meat would help many endangered species recover.
  • Forests are being bulldozed to make more room for factory farms and feed crops. This destruction causes soil erosion and contributes to species extinction and habitat loss (9).
  • In the US farm animal grazing has contributed to the demise of 26% of federal threatened and endangered species (31). If we are going green with food now, some species may still be saved from the otherwise inevitable!
  • It is estimated that for each hamburger made from rainforest beef, members of life forms from approximately 20 - 30 different plant species, 100 different insect species, and dozens of bird, mammals, and reptile species are destroyed (32).

Philip Fradkin of the National Audubon Society states: "The impact of countless hooves and mouths over the years has done more to alter the type of vegetation and land forms of the West than all the water projects, strip mines, power plants, freeways, and subdivision developments combined.

Read my interview with Dr. Richard Oppenlander - author of environmental must-read Comfortably Unaware, on why the food we choose to eat is killing our planet.

Go to top of Going Green With Food page or go to Green Food - protect our planet with truly sustainable food.

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(1) NewScientist.com, "It's better to green your diet than your car"; 17 Dec. 2005 - about going green by avoiding meat
(2) John Robbins, "The Food Revolution" - a great source for healthier living and going green through avoiding animal products
(3) Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at the Bard Center, and Pamela A. Martin, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago compare sources for greenhouse gases
(4) National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan analyzes global warming causes
(5) BritishMeat.com about factor farming facts and going green with vegetarian diets
(6) A HSUS Report from 2006: The Welfare of Animals in the Meat, Egg, and Dairy Industries
(7) Bicycling Wastes Gas? "http://bicycleuniverse.info/transpo/beef.html" - a blog about going green by skipping meat
(8) Smithonian Institution, "Smithonian Researchers showing Amazonian deforestation accelerating", Science Daily Online, 15.January 2002
(9) Livestock's Long Shadow - Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nation's 2006 report concludes that going green with food means cutting down meat.
(10) John Robbins, "Diet for a New America", p. 367
(11) Frances Moore Lappe, "Diet for a Small Planet", Ballantine Books: New York,1982
(12) John Robbins' article "2,500 gallons all wet?" to address questions around water use in the beef industry based on his book "Diet for a New America". Going green is more efficient through avoiding meat than saving energy and water.
(13) Mark Gold and Jonathon Porritt, "The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat"; 2004, p. 22 - explains going green solutions with reduction of animal products
(14) Greenpeace, "Eating up the Amazon", 2006 - describes global warming causes and other impact of deforestation in Brazil
(15) Environmental magazine "E" in 2002 - about the global warming causes of factory farming and meat production.
(16) Environmental Protection Agency - about greenhouse gases emissions and pollution caused by factory farming
(17) Sustainable Table on Research from the Department of Economics at the University of Essex
(18) Environmental Defense - on going green options by skipping meat
(19) Scientists of the Smithonian Institute about sustainable food and going green impacts for food choices
(20) Earth Talk, "The Environmental Beef With Meat"; The Bay Weekly 6 Jan. 2005
(21) Jim Motavalli cites Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) findings - about greenhouse gases caused by factory farming.
(22) Environmental News Network, "Environmental Issues Specific to the Agriculture Industry"; ENN Online 2004
(23) Worldwatch Institute, "Fire Up the Grill for a Mouthwatering Red, White and Green July 4th"; 2 Jul. 2003
(24) Environmental Protection Agency, "Review of Emission Factors and Methodologies to Estimate Ammonia Emissions From Animal Waste Handling," Apr. 2002
(25) Neuse Riverlaw and Waterkeepers, "Fecal Waste Production of Swine and Microbial Treatment Requirements" - about greenhouse gases caused by factory farming operations
(26) John Lang, "Manure Proves to Be Massive Environmental Problem"; Scripps Howard News Service, 24 Apr. 1998
(27) Lang, "U.S. Staggers Under Weight of Waste From Farm Animals"; Scripps Howard News Service, 26 Apr. 1998
(28) Natural Resources Defense Council, "America's Factory Farms: How States Fail to Prevent Pollution From Livestock Waste"; Natural Resources Defense Council, Dec. 1998
(29) Steinfeld et al. - on global warming causes and going green disasters of factory farming
(30) Center for Disease Control. (July 5, 1996) "Abortions possibly related to ingestion of Nitrate contaminated well water". Morbidity and Mortality Weekly, Report 26 pp. 569-571
(31) USDA-NRCS. (1997)"America's private land: a geography of hope (p. 54)". Program Aid 1548
(32) Denslow, J. and Padoch, C. (1988). "People of the Tropical Rainforest (p. 169)". University of California Press
(33) 2009 Worldwatch Institute's study "Livestock and Climate Change" - about global warming causes and greenhouse gases produced by factory farming operations
(34) How Sustainable Agriculture Can Address the Environmental and Human Health Harms of Industrial Agriculture "Environmental Health Perspectives""; Volume 110, Number 5 May 2002
(35) USDA Agricultural Research Service, "FY-2005 Annual Report Manure and Byproduct Utilization" 31 May 2006 (accessed August 10, 2006).

Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended as medical advice. It is solely based on the experience and information researched and gathered from reputable sources by Ina Mohan. Please consult with your certified healthcare provider to ensure that you can safely follow the healthy eating guidelines provided on this website. Ina Mohan encourages you to research and verify all health and diet information that you receive, particularly from sources that may have a commercial interest in disputing the healing capabilities of the human body with wholesome nutrition.