“Do you want climate change with that?”
Imagine the voice at the drive-thru asking you this question when you order your cheeseburger. Sounds crazy, right? Not according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Their 2006 report warns us that our increasing consumption of animal foods (meat and dairy) is taking a heavy toll on the planet.
The problem is that livestock—while delicious—is tough on the environment in at least three different ways. First, they pollute our water, air and soil with manure and methane (a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.) Second, the corn, soybeans and hay grown for livestock feed requires huge amounts of fertilizer, which generates large amounts of nitrous oxide. Finally, trees and rainforest lands are being sacrificed to create more land for livestock pasture. One extreme example is Brazil, where about 70 percent of onetime forest land is being used as pasture and to grow animal feed.
The UN report concludes that eating less meat and dairy foods is one step we could all take to help reduce global warming and other environmental damage.
Here’s the great news: what’s good for the planet is also great for your health. Replacing animal foods with plant foods—like fruits, veggies, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes—prevents obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer. That’s one powerful habit!