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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

Why should you become a weekday vegetarian?

Cows in a field

Credit: Cgoodwin under Creative Commons

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So why is eating vegetarian food good for the environment? You’re probably already aware of the inhumane treatment industrial agriculture gives to farm animals, but did you know it’s not good for the earth as well?

When we look at the whole eco-footprint of the meat we eat, compared to vegetables, fruit, legumes, grains and so on, it’s easy to see that it takes more resources to bring it from the farm to your fork. By keeping the meat we eat to a minimum, or going without it altogether, we can make a huge difference to our own eco-footprint.

The grain we feed farm animals (which is often not their natural diet anyway) uses water, fertiliser, land and other resources that could have gone towards growing crops we could eat ourselves. So many people around the world are living in poverty that it’s hard to excuse our waste of valuable food in this way.

According to the CSIRO, each kilo of beef takes 50,000 – 100,000 litres of water to produce. In a dry country like Australia, this is a huge drain on a limited resource.

And everyone knows that cow burps create methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Scientists are working on ways to reduce this, but I suspect it’d be easier to just reduce the number of cows!

I fully support more sustainable methods of farming animals, like Joel Salatin’s well-known Polyface Farm. Australian farmers are starting to experiment with new methods too. It’s better for the animals and better for the planet.

But it can be difficult to find meat grown that way, and it will always be more resource-intensive than the equivalent amount of other food. Being a weekday vegetarian means that you’re really cutting back on the impact you have. This challenge is a great opportunity for you to give it a test-run - how are you doing so far?