Ah, summer. It always brings up the same sensory memories: the sounds of waves crashing, the taste of cold lemonade (or, let’s be honest, a cold Bell’s Oberon) and the smells of a backyard cookout.
What would summer be without the smell of charcoal and meat and lighter fluid floating through the air? Well, a new report by the Environmental Working Group shows that it would be a summer that takes a much lighter toll on the planet.
The report didn’t reveal much that I (we?) didn’t already know, but it does present the information in an easy-to-understand format (charts!) and compares each food to something that the American public has already accepted as being bad for the planet – driving your car.
According to the report, eating 4 oz. of beef is the equivalent of driving 7 miles in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, while eating 4 oz. of nuts, yogurt, beans, broccoli or tofu would set you back less than half a mile. Eating lentils and tomatoes would put you only about a block away from where you started.
What was surprising is that cheese generates the third-highest emissions (many times more than milk or yogurt) and lamb generates about 50 percent more emissions than beef. “While beef and lamb generate comparable amounts of methane and require similar quantities of feed, lamb generates more emissions per kilo in part because it produces less edible meat relative to the sheep’s live weight,” the report explains.
My favorite statistic is that if everyone in the United States gave up meat and dairy just one day a week, it would be like taking 7.6 million cars off the road for the year. (Although when you consider that there are more than 250 million cars in the U.S., it’s really just a reminder of how far we really have to go.)
To me, this chart is quite compelling. But perhaps it’s because everything I eat falls on the lower end of the emissions spectrum and I can use it to make myself feel good about my choices.
But what about for the average person? Or at least, for the average “conservation-minded” individual who might be reading this? Are seeing these numbers in such a clear and compelling manner enough to make you trade in a flame-grilled cheeseburger for some grilled asparagus (try it marinated in a little olive oil with steak seasoning – it’s delicious!)?
For those of you that eat beef, lamb or cheese regularly, is this information enough to make you reconsider eating it so often? Let me know why or why not in the comments section below.
(Image: Soy hotdogs and “chicken” nuggets on a grill. Image Credit: Pennington via Flickr Creative Commons)