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Michelle Harris Headshot

Not So Green Eggs and Ham

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These days even filling up my Prius is getting expensive. Okay, so like many other Prius owners, I've always had a secret chuckle at the pump while guy with the Hummer is handing one hundred dollars or more to fill up. Unless you are in a military zone, that Hummer is just an energy sucking pollution mobile. Unfortunately, even for those of us driving hybrids, the price of gas is not a laughing matter anymore.

The silver lining to our present gas crisis is that people are looking for smaller, cleaner, more fuel efficient vehicles. Hopefully this is getting American auto makers to wake up to the demand for new technology. But until we have reached the point where we no longer have to rely on fossil fuels, current gas prices are making everything more expensive, including food.

As poorer countries are hardest hit, just simply feeding people is becoming a global crisis; one that is also affecting us at home. Food prices are skyrocketing, adding an even greater burden to an economy that is on the edge.

What many people don't realize is that in addition to finding new, environmentally friendly energy sources, a big part of what we can do to decrease our demand for oil is to change our diet. The production of meat and animal products in general is a tremendous waste of resources. No longer do these products come from your local family farm. Huge factory farms provide the majority of meat in this country. The Earth Action Network says that the amount of energy to produce a single hamburger is equivalent to the fuel it takes to drive 20 miles. That makes your trip to the golden arches very environmentally unfriendly, even if you hit the drive thru in your Prius.

Factory farms use up to 80 percent of the corn grown in this country to feed livestock, all of which takes energy, fuel and water. It also adds a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide to the environment. Outside of the United States, thousands of acres of rainforest are being clear cut for grazing of livestock.

The production of meat has a staggering effect:
• 80 percent of deforestation in the world is due to animal agriculture
• A full acre of trees is saved by any person who switches to a vegetarian diet
• The amount of water needed to produce one steak is 2500 gallons; a plant based diet only uses 300 gallons of water per day.
• It takes 10 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat.

So why is it that eating lower on the food chain and switching to a plant based diet is seldom brought up as a solution? The next time you sit down to that organic chicken dinner, it may not be loading you up on hormones and antibiotics, but it still just as bad for the environment, and really not all that much better for you.

Going veg has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and help fight obesity. So what's not to like? A vegetarian diet is good for you and the planet. As my grocery bill continues to rise and the drain on the earth's resources becomes increasingly alarming, isn't time we make a personal choice to change?

With an abundance of high protein alternatives such as soy milk, veggie burgers and even vegetable based "chicken" and cold cuts, it's not only beneficial to kick the meat habit, but it's easy. I enjoy a wide variety of foods and I actually have a more diverse diet than most of my meat eating friends.

To me, not eating meat is the environmentally responsible thing to do and it's even patriotic. It is patriotic to use less energy, save resources and keep our country clean. It's something we can do as individuals to help create change.

Sometimes not eating meat is a matter of self preservation; I would prefer not to have bypass surgery later in life. I also enjoy breathing clean air, so I am going to do whatever I can to reach those goals.

Then why not trade in those burgers for veggie burgers? Try adding more meatless meals to your diet, or make the choice to go vegetarian or vegan. No matter how you slice it, there is no green in those eggs and ham.

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