Environmental awareness is a concept that has been around longer than the United States has. Coined as “The First Environmentalists,” Native Americans have been known to show deep respect and devotion towards Mother Earth (Pennybacker). Ethical hunting, wholesome use of natural resources, conservative waste and more are practices that have been compromised since the start of the Industrial Revolution with the rise in population and the subsequent rise in need for goods. How do we accommodate for our growing global population while still bearing the Earth’s constraints in mind?
As “sustainability” becomes a buzzword in regards to today’s political and literal climate, we should unpack its meaning and cultural contexts before proceeding towards our goal of extending the approaching deadline of doom. I’ll begin with what sustainability means to Webster Dictionary: avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. The words “ecological balance” address the diversity on Earth that extends from wildlife, animals and humans to their habitats. Sustainability must be approached holistically with these factors in mind.
Next, I’ll discuss what sustainability means to me as an American: As an individual it is my responsibility to minimize my carbon footprint as much as I possible. I personally define this as reducing my waste, upcycling, recycling, eating greener, composting, thrifting, donating and more. As an American consumer it means that I actively seek and support sustainable/ local businesses. My role as a consumer brings an important conversation to the forefront. What is the role of industrial America in expediting the arrival of Earth’s expiration date?
Industrial America caters to the calls of capitalism. In a market where economic growth is the only variable considered, large businesses ignore the constraints that should be followed to honor the limited resources available. Centering this conversation around the meat industry helps put sustainability in a measurable perspective. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the production of one calorie of animal protein requires more than ten times the fossil fuel input for the production of plant protein.
All this can lead to the feeling of nihilistic despair or the notion that one person’s efforts can’t dent the seemingly endless list of problems leading to climate change, the opposite is true actually. Small acts can make a big difference. Not everyone has to be vegan to help our planet, but everyone should be conscious of their diet’s environmental impact. What can you do to eat more consciously?
Begin by limiting consumption of red meat to certain days of the week. Red meat is the most environmentally unfriendly type of protein. Not to mention that red meat causes an increased risk of death and disease due to unsanitary conditions of livestock in most meat farms, By opting for a different type of protein, not only are you helping yourself but also your planet.
Limit cheese and dairy intake. If a family of four were to cut that out of their diets for just one day a week for a year, it would be the equivalent of saving five weeks of driving or reducing the individual shower by three minutes.
Opt for a vegan friendly option when possible. Most cafes and restaurants offer plant based milks like oat, almond and soy. The production of these milks have a much greener process and they also have been seen to be better for us. In a study conducted through the Loma Linda University, it was found that vegans have a 12 percent lower risk of death.
Variations of these suggestions can go a long way as well. Begin with what is comfortable for you and work your way towards a more environmentally friendly way of life. Whether it be reducing your intake of a certain food group or opting for a better choice. Most importantly, we must spread the word. Bringing environmentalism to the forefront of our daily conversations and decisions is important if we want to see change. These small actions slowly accumulate to make a big difference