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Olivia Zaleski Headshot

Finding A Green Balance

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This past Memorial Day weekend I attended a barbecue at a friend's house on Long Island. On the menu . . . STEAK . . . yes, big, juicy, tender, oh-so-perfectly-marinated steak. I panicked! As the smell of grilled nirvana hit my nose and I went weak in the knees, I knew it was doomsday. I was about to endure a slow and painful torture session. I absolutely love (capital L.O.V.E.) red meat, but have recently "given it up" to avoid some serious hypocrisy. Lets face it, if I'm going to talk this eco-talk, I'd better walk the eco-walk and any true environmentalist knows that a porterhouse is a Hummer on a plate.

To quote some statistics from the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, the international meat industry generates roughly 18 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions -- that's more than transportation.

Where does this greenhouse gas come from . . . well, to be blunt . . . cow farts. If you've never had the pleasure of standing downwind of a farting cow then let me tell you: it is bad enough to turn any meat lover off for the next decade and bad enough to turn any environmentalist off for a lifetime. The effects of cow farts are astounding: methane has a warming effect that is 23 times as great as that of carbon. Then consider the amount of energy consumed feeding, raising, and transporting livestock.

Given these stats, what's a meat-loving-wannabe-eco-chick supposed to do? I can tell you what I "should have done," but what I did do has far greater implications . . . I cheated! Over Memorial Day weekend, I broke my red-meat embargo and to be honest, I think it was the right decision. I was hungry, it was a festive occasion, and I truly wanted some meat. Most of all, being environmentally conscious does not mean being extreme. It's about balance.

Too often the environmental movement is associated with guilt. How many Hail Mary's should you say for using an AC? How many frequent flyer miles must you offset? Are you a bad person for driving a SUV? This guilt-complex turns people away; it's intimidating and we all know nobody wants a Debbie Downer around. Like anything in life, people are more likely to follow through on reasonable goals, take action out of desire, not live by fear and guilt.

I have "given up meat" because I truly want to. I personally believe grain is better used to feed starving humans rather than fleshy cattle. I also cringe at the thought of millions of cows "ripping" holes in the ozone layer. For these reasons, I choose to avoid eating red meat. That doesn't mean, however, that I can't indulge here and there. My Memorial Day cheat ended a three-month stretch. Yes, I was weak, powerless, and drooling, but I broke the fast with confidence. If cheating once in a while means following through 99 percent of the time then I'll take it . . . and enjoy it.

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