Environmental Vegetarianism: Is it Sustainable?

I suppose this is more of a personally-derived topic, but I feel an important one.  There are many environmental vegetarians, myself included.  By definition, an environmental vegetarian believes that the U.S. and other countries’ meat product systems are detrimental to the environment.  This may because of land degradation, energy-input to protein-output ratio, or bacterial (specifically e. coli and Mad Cow) threats to the human body as a product of poor practice.

I am an environmental vegetarian specifically because I believe that the food production system for meat is disgusting in practice, and because I believe the studies that demonstrate how methane and carbon dioxide gases from livestock are far worse than the exhaust from automobiles.

I recall when I committed to myself a path of environmental vegetarianism.  I was leaving Los Angeles in the summer of 2010, driving back to Detroit in the midst of a two-month road trip (comprising nearly 15,000 miles).  After eating a fried chicken, bacon, Swiss, and mayonnaise sandwich with fries and a pop from Jack-in-the-Box, I wasn’t hungry for an entire day.  As I crawled along at 45 miles per hour in the scalding Nevada desert into Utah, I began to fill sick.  The kind of sick that is really just guilt, but it comes from poor eating.  So I decided that my future would somehow reduce my impact on the environment, at that the decision to not eat meat would be an appropriate one to shuck myself of this guilt.

Well, nearly a year and a half later, I’ve eaten meat intentionally only twice, and accidentally (it’s easier than you think!) less than 10 times.

However, others and myself have been criticizing my own diet and perhaps that of environmental vegetarianism for being arbitrary in the decision to not eat meat instead of focusing on the reason behind a diet change: supporting a sustainable food system.  Now, I’m not going to say, “Go forth and eat McDonald’s daily,” because that would be silly. However, I don’t think that environmental sustainability is going to come from one decision.  It’s going to come from continuous decisions instead of understanding where your food is from, how it was produced, and just as importantly, how far it was transported.

I’m frankly in need of resources and information here.  The fact of the matter is that few grocery stores have this information.  Furthermore, the ones that do have it are expensive… or don’t have the selection of a Meijer, Kroger, Safeway, etc.  But where is the breaking point?


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