Being "Green": Learning from Tigers

Post originally on Scitable's Student Voices for #30DayGreen

LSU's Mike the Tiger loves meat. As a matter of fact, this carnivore eats up to 25 POUNDS of meat every single night. Red, juicy meat is his favorite.

Of course, the meat that this tiger eats no longer comes from grazers roaming in the wild. The meat is most probably farm-raised, rather "manufactured," and so Mike is just as guilty as we are of consuming livestock responsible for an enormous proportion of the greenhouse gases produced worldwide. Of course, Mike is a Tiger who can't help but eat meat. We, on the other hand, might benefit in both our health and environment by abstaining from meat once in a while.

According to "Livestocks Long Shadow" (2006), a report supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally. This number might be higher or lower regionally. So while conserving gas mileage counts, that steak on your dinner plate might count similarly or even more. 

The livestock sector also contributes to loss of water quality and biodiversity. Animal agriculture contributes significantly to global climate change and air pollution. The grazing of livestock demands a full 26 percent (close to one third) of ice-free land surface on the planet. From deforestation of land for the raising of livestock, to energy spent in their feeding and maintenance, to the CO2 produced in meat processing and transportation of that meat thousands of miles to your plate, mass-produced meat is a greenhouse gas nightmare. Not to mention the soil and water degradation and contamination that accompany the industry.

So if you don't think that what you eat, where it comes from, how it was prepared and where you buy it matters, think again. There are ways to eat meat that are "greener" than others. Buying local produce and local meat can mean a big reduction in your carbon footprint. I am not talking about abstaining from meat as a fad or diet, I am talking about choosing environmentally friendly foods.

So next time I stop by my student union and smell the temptation of Panda Express, I am going to think again. Going to my local farmer's market for some local grass-fed beef would be a much better choice, both for my health and for the environment. Sorry, Mike, but eating a meat-centered diet just doesn't cut it for the environment anymore.

To read more about consuming less or producing more lifestock, read here.

Credit: Paige Brown