As residents of Humboldt County, we often pride ourselves on being environmentally conscious. Many of us are already taking steps toward living more sustainably. Perhaps you ride your bike (or kinetic sculpture) to school or work, take shorter showers or bring your water bottle wherever you go. Maybe you've introduced a compost bin into your household or started a vegetable garden. You might even go above and beyond by unplugging the toaster when it's not in use. But what if I told you that you could still cut your ecological footprint in half by changing just one more thing about your lifestyle?
At the start of my freshman year at Humboldt State University, I thought I was doing almost everything I could to minimize my impact on the environment and its inhabitants. I was an avid recycler, would walk to town whenever I could and made a point to pick up stray garbage wherever I saw it. However, after watching the documentary Cowspiracy, my perception of environmentalism was forever changed and I was forced to question the lies that I had (literally) been fed most of my life. For example, I learned that animal agriculture — the practice of breeding and raising animals for the production of animal products — is responsible for more than 51 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to a recent study, while the entire transportation sector (planes, trains, cars, etc.) is responsible for only 14 percent. In addition to this, I also learned that animal agriculture is responsible for 91 percent of Amazon rainforest destruction and that it uses 55 percent of all of the water consumed in the U.S., while private homes only use 5 percent. Is this information as alarming to you as it is to me? In a society where individuals are criticized for watering their lawns or washing their cars, why are most people still supporting the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, rainforest destruction and ocean pollution?
These shocking figures really made me question why environmental agencies like Greenpeace, the Pacific Institute and the Sierra Club aren't doing more to stop animal agriculture from completely destroying the planet. The answer: Organizations like these are most concerned with maintaining their public image and funding — even when they receive donations from the same corporate farming agencies causing this environmental damage in the first place.
By now, I'm sure you're asking yourself where you fit into all of this and (hopefully) how you can help. As consumers, each of us has the power to vote with our money and, when a company or place of business is unethical, we have the choice to boycott it. Today, animal agriculture poses an enormous threat to the environment. If we don't stand up against its immoral practices, it will continue to pollute, destroy and take advantage of the earth and its limited resources. The best way you can help fight animal agriculture is by not supporting it, and this means going vegan.
Having been vegan for almost three years now, I often hear people say that one person can't make a difference. However, according to the Cowspiracy documentary, the average vegan saves about 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of rainforest and the equivalent of 20 pounds of carbon dioxide every single day, so I think it is safe to say that one person can make a difference and that the power of the individual should never be underestimated.
So next time you're out grocery shopping or ordering from a restaurant, please think twice about the environmental impact of your food. I think you'll find that eating a plant-based diet is affordable, healthy and delicious. Not to mention, you can feel good about halving your ecological footprint and saving animals, too! As Albert Einstein reportedly once said, "Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."
If you're interested in learning more about veganism and its many benefits, please feel free to stop by the HSU Vegan Club. The club meets every Friday from 1 to 2 p.m. in Nelson Hall East, room 118, on campus, and you don't have to be a student to attend. There's also a Facebook group called "Vegans in Humboldt" that holds monthly vegan potlucks for community members. Furthermore, if you're looking for something to watch, the movie Earthlings is a great source of additional information.
Rhiannon Ferriday is a Humboldt State University student and the campus representative for The Humane League, a nonprofit devoted to reducing animal suffering.
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