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Saving the world one costly checkout choice at a time


During a visit to South Africa to see my Dad, Stepmom, and stepbrother, I was intrigued, as I usually am, by each country’s unique take on the “Green Movement”. During my time in London, I noticed a large push for recyclable packaging. In America, we can of course use the large green bins for our glass, plastic, newspaper, and so forth. All countries seem to have adapted the cloth, resusable grocery bags. I have about 6… all of which have been accumulated from various freebie events. Maybe since I didn’t purchase them, that explains my 50/50 shot of remembering them as I walk into the grocery store.

South Africa also has these bags available, but a new innovation struck me on my last trip to the grocer…paying for your plastic bags. Each and every one of them. 5¢ a piece. Now, that doesn’t sound terrible I guess. But considering on my average $200/month (for one person) grocery bill, I would pull an educated guess of requiring about 40 plastic bags a month. On a yearly average, that may cost me $24 in South Africa. And when you think about it, when does it seem rational to pay any amount to pollute the planet?

National Geographic wrote an article, “Are plastic bags sacking the environment?” As an agriculturalist, I am also an environmentalist. In order for future families to be able to raise animals or plants for human consumption, we need to ensure there is enough clean dirt to grow the things we need. And this tiny fee could make a huge difference in a country this big, don’t you think?

I personally do my best to “re-use”…I line my bathroom trashcans with old Kroger bags, pick up dog poop (which in itself seems silly to waste plastic to pick up something far more biodegradable to begin with), or even finally gather them up by the hundreds and drive around with them in my trunk until I remember to drop them off at the store’s enterance for their own form of recycling. But I sort of like this take on it. It surely made me think twice on whether my gallon milk with a built-in handle really also needed a plastic bag in order for me to carry it the short distance from the car to the fridge. I rather think not. Kudos, South Africa!

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Tofu Can Harm the Environment More Than Meat


This news article has been pasted from http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7023809.ece

Tofu can harm environment more than meat, finds WWF study

Ben Webster, Environment Editor

Becoming a vegetarian can do more harm to the environment than continuing to eat red meat, according to a study of the impacts of meat substitutes such as tofu.

The findings undermine claims by vegetarians that giving up meat automatically results in lower emissions and that less land is needed to produce food.

The study by Cranfield University, commissioned by the environmental group WWF, found that many meat substitutes were produced from soy, chickpeas and lentils that were grown overseas and imported into Britain.

It found that switching from beef and lamb reared in Britain to meat substitutes would result in more foreign land being cultivated and raise the risk of forests being destroyed to create farmland. Meat substitutes also tended to be highly processed and involved energy-intensive production methods.

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 Lord Stern of Brentford, one of the world’s leading climate change economists, caused uproar among Britain’s livestock farmers last October when he claimed that a vegetarian diet was better for the planet. He told The Times: “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.”

However, the Cranfield study found that the environmental benefits of vegetarianism depended heavily on the type of food consumed as an alternative to meat. It concluded: “A switch from beef and milk to highly refined livestock product analogues such as tofu could actually increase the quantity of arable land needed to supply the UK.”

A significant increase in vegetarianism in Britain could cause the collapse of the country’s livestock industry and result in production of meat shifting overseas to countries with few regulations to protect forests and other uncultivated land, it added.

Donal Murphy-Bokern, one of the study authors and the former farming and food science co-ordinator at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “For some people, tofu and other meat substitutes symbolise environmental friendliness but they are not necessarily the badge of merit people claim. Simply eating more bread, pasta and potatoes instead of meat is more environmentally friendly.”

Liz O’Neill, spokeswoman for the Vegetarian Society, said: “The figures used in the report are based on a number of questionable assumptions about how vegetarians balance their diet and how the food industry might respond to increased demand.

“If you’re aiming to reduce your environmental impact by going vegetarian then it’s obviously not a good idea to rely on highly processed products, but that doesn’t undermine the fact that the livestock industry causes enormous damage and that moving towards a plant-based diet is good for animals, human health and the environment.”

The National Farmers’ Union said the study showed that general statements about the environmental benefits of vegetarianism were too simplistic. Jonathan Scurlock, the NFU’s chief adviser for climate change, said: “The message is that no single option offers a panacea. The report rightly demonstrates the many environment benefits to be had from grazing pasture land with little or no other productive use.”

The study also found that previous estimates of the total emissions of Britain’s food consumption had been flawed because they failed to take account of the impact of changes to the use of land overseas.

Salad days

• About a quarter of the world’s population eat a predominantly vegetarian diet

• There are 3.7 million vegetarians in Britain

• Only 2 per cent of the French population don’t eat meat

• There is a longstanding myth that Adolf Hitler was vegetarian but recent research suggests that he ate at least some meat