One sure way to cut your carbon emissions is to eat less meat. Compared to growing plant foods, meat and poultry production uses far more resources and produces far more carbon emissions. Beef is the most environmentally expensive food of all. According to an article published in Scientific American several years ago, “producing the annual beef diet of the average American emits as much greenhouse gas as a car driving more than 1,800 miles.” Though it is difficult to measure precisely, the Worldwatch Institute has blamed at least half of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions on livestock.
The explanation for all this is the collective “cost” of forests being cleared for grazing land, animal feed production, processing and transportation of animals, along with the carbon dioxide and methane the animals release into the atmosphere.
It doesn’t take a lot to make a difference. A study from Carnegie Mellon University found that skipping red meat and dairy products just one night a week for a year saves the equivalent in greenhouse gas emissions produced by driving a car 760 miles. Instead, eat more grains and legumes as protein sources. Other nonmeat options include protein-rich soy and seitan (wheat gluten) products, many of which taste pretty good these days, especially if you incorporate them into other dishes (for example, use soy crumbles instead of ground beef in pasta sauce). In place of dairy, try calcium-fortified soy, rice or hemp milk and soy or rice cheeses.