Earth Day, is a day that comes around once a year, drawing attention to the health of our planet. You'll see both cleanups and activities scheduled over the next week to commemorate the day we set aside to celebrate & protect our planet. Earth Day was first created in 1970 and celebrated annually, however, it should be more than just once a year when we think of this.
As a long-time environmental activist, I have been interested and involved in the food system. This has been the case since I was a teenager (that was a little bit ago :). I grow a lot of what we eat, and try to purchase as much as I can locally. Since this summer, our family has moved to a plant-based diet, and we're learning more each day how much our food impacts both ourselves and the planet.
It's hard to escape the headlines about the California water crisis. It's entirely another story when you visit or live there. I lucky to live in a water rich area, on the shores of Lake Erie-part of the largest bodies of fresh water on the planet. When we visited California, the water crisis was overwhelming to me. As we drove past fields and fields of crops, we also drove past signs crying for water rights and usage.
So-how do our food choices impact the water crisis? Much attention has been focussed on Californians' personal use of water to shower, water lawns, drinking, etc. New attention has been drawn largely to the use of water in the almond industry. While almonds are a water intensive crop, nothing is more water and energy intesive than the meat industry. Alfalfa is a very water intensive crop, grown to feed livestock. Alfalfa uses about 15% of the state’s water supply, compared to 10% for almonds. About 70 percent of alfalfa grown in California is used in dairies, and a good portion of the rest is exported to land-poor Asian countries like Japan (Source). To grow 1 kg of almonds, it's estimated to take 3,100 L of water. To grow 1 kg of beef, it's estimated to take 15,500 L of water. That's 5x's the amount of water! All sources of animal based protein use more resources (not included damage done by pollution) than plant-based sources. Chicken: 3,900 L, cheese-5,000 L, pork 4,800 L per Kilo (source). If we look per pound; tofu uses 244 gallons vs. beef 2500-5000 (Source). These numbers are just the impact the meat industry has upon direct water use. There are many more impacts such as methane release, groundwater contamination from pesticide use to grow animal feed, energy and transportation costs. National Public Radio also did a recent story on plant-based proteins and environmental impacts of the meat industry (Source).
So-as we celebrate Earth Day on April 22, let's think about how we can all make a big impact on our planet in a positive way. If you aren't a true vegan/plant-based consumer, think about ways in which you can incorporate more plant-based meals each week. Each meal you replace, you are doing something that's not just good for your health, but good for your planet. Your kids will thank you.....
How about you start now. Here's a recipe for my spicy red lentil soup-packed with plant-based protein :) For more recipes on how to cook a plant-based diet, check out my blog www.gardenfreshfoodie.com
In the wise words of Margaret Mead (and my email tagline): "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”