NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina
The question Whats responsible for all this climate change?
has most Canadians pointing to the closest SUV or highway. As it
turns out, our sky-high gas prices have a plus side; they are forcing
us to reconsider our highly polluting transportation habits.
Yet transportation isnt the biggest contributor to global
warming. Livestock generate even more global warming gases, including
immense volumes of methane from enteric fermentation by ruminants
(gas from both ends of cows) and of nitrous oxide from manure.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
report summarizes livestocks threats to the environment as
Greenhouse gas emissions: Livestock are responsible for highly damaging
methane and nitrogen emissions.
Land degradation: Livestock damages grazing land, encourages soil
loss and destroys sensitive areas.
Water pollution: Animal waste from factory farms and manure on croplands
pollutes our water.
Biodiversity loss: We lose wildlife and its habitat.
In the 1970s, when I lived on a ranch near Kamloops, I noticed
that the ranchs 3,000 beef cattle would be trucked
600 kilometres to Alberta for fattening. After slaughter, many would
be trucked back to BC supermarkets, in parts. Considering the entire
commodity chain of feed, water, fuel (for the transport of feed,
animals and meat) and emissions, the FAO estimates that livestock
are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger
share than that of human transport.
Yet there is good news. For example, 26 North American universities
and colleges have been given a grade of A-minus or better in the
four categories of campus sustainability. One of these leaders in
sustainability is our own UBC. To quote the report: The UBC
ECOTrek program, the largest water and energy retrofit in any Canadian
university, was finalized in 2006 and has tallied energy savings
that represent a reduction of 15,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
The program is saving the university $2.5 million annually as a
result of a 20 percent reduction in energy use. Since 1990, carbon
dioxide emissions per square metre of building have been reduced
by 30 percent.
UBC committed to sustainability targets such as a 25 percent reduction
in campus emissions below 2,000 levels by 2010. UBCs sustainability
office assists with building design and a campus energy and water
retrofit. Other initiatives in various universities include buying
food from local farms, offering more plant-based food on cafeteria
menus and recycling.
Along with eating low on the food chain, sustainable farming and
organic food make sense. We used to think that organic
was synonymous with more expensive. An E-book you might
enjoy is David Hennesseys How to Buy Organic Food Inexpensively.
Packed with practical information, the book is available online
for only $5 (www.davidhennessey.ca/buyorganicfood.htm)
WindSong Cohousing Community, where I have the immense good fortune
to live, had the vision to implement green solutions for our heating,
lighting, energy use and car sharing. These initiatives are led
by community members Patrick Meyer and Kim Rink, a planet-friendly
pair who develop sustainable communities (www.ecotek.ca). Their
efforts are starting to save us money.
How can you show that you care? At your next picnic, opt for a
veggie burger. There are many brands and you are sure to find one
you like. Test plant-based recipes with your friends and family.
Frequent vegetarian restaurants. Check out www.vegdining.com where
youll find listings for vegetarian restaurants across the
globe; there are 52 in Vancouver and 13 others throughout BC. If
you know of other veg-friendly restaurants that should be listed,
let them know and also send an email to the people at www.happycow.net
The website has 97 food-related listings for BC. Encourage everyone
you know, young and old, to eat healthy, recycle and do what they
can to take care of our dear planet.
Vesanto Melina is a dietitian and author based in
Langley, BC. Call 604-882-6782 for a personal consultation or visit
www.nutrispeak.com Also see www.healthyschoolfood.org to get a years
worth of daily Wakeup Wellness Messages for a $50 donation.