Today is Earth Day, 24 hours when we all pause to consider how best to reduce that nasty number known as our carbon footprint. But what to do? Should we all drive Smart Cars? Recycle our Bud Light cans? Set Miami's collective A/C at 80 degrees?
Actually, going meatless is the best thing any of us can do to lessen our environmental impact and make nice with Mother Earth. It turns out animal agriculture is destroying the planet. Seriously. Find out the facts after the jump.
See also: Ten Things to Do in Honor of Earth Day
Here's some stuff you probably didn't know:
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- Animal agriculture is the number one source of methane worldwide, and methane is 21 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2.
- Animal agriculture produces more than 100 million tons of methane a year.
- 51 percent or more of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture.
- According to the United Nations, raising animals for food is "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global."
- If you exchanged your "regular" car for a Prius, you could prevent about one ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere per year; going vegan would reduce it by about 1.5 tons.
- A 2008 German study concluded that a meat-eater's diet is responsible for more than seven times as many greenhouse gas emissions as a vegan's diet.
- Nitrous oxide is 296 times more potent as a global warming gas than carbon dioxide. According to the UN, the meat, egg, and dairy industries account for 65 percent of worldwide nitrous oxide emissions.
- It takes the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline to produce a pound of grain-fed beef in the U.S. To produce enough beef to feed an average American family of four requires over 260 gallons of fossil fuel.
- As of 2010, 30% of Earth's ice- and water-free space was used for producing livestock.
- It takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef, but just 25 gallons to produce a pound of wheat.
Go vegan. Save the planet. Pretty simple, right? Oh, and even if you can't go all-the-way herbivorous, simply reducing your meat portion sizes and frequency can positively affect the environment. Every bit helps.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.