How eating greens keeps the Earth green

The quesadillas at a local cafe, containing grilled chicken, queso blanco, cheddar and smoked cheese, used to be junior Ellie Peskin’s favorite menu item. Last spring, Peskin went to the cafe with her friend and ordered her usual for what would be the last time.

“In my head, I was like, ‘I’m eating a dead animal right now, and this could have come from a horrible process,’” said Peskin. “It wasn’t even a particularly negative experience.”

“It was just that every time I was eating [meat], I got grossed out,” Peskin said. 

Peskin has been a vegetarian for nine months now, making the dietary shift after reading about the effects of factory farming on animals and the environment in the book “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer. 

“I did some reflection and realized [going vegetarian] isn’t that hard, and there are so many reasons to become vegetarian,” Peskin said.

According to Alexis Miller, educational coordinator for the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, a nonprofit organization that works to educate people about sustainable food, there are approximately 10 billion land animals raised and killed for consumption per year in the United States alone. These animals use finite resources like food, water and land and release greenhouse gasses in the process, which contributes to climate change and environment crises. This pollution creates uninhabitable zones at the mouths of rivers, negatively impacting biodiversity.

“The amount of space that it takes to graze cattle or to grow all the food to feed these animals … is pushing other species out of their natural habitat,” said Miller. “And that includes endangered animals.”

While free-range farms are regarded as more humane, they are just as problematic or even worse for the environment compared to factory farms, Miller said.

“[The cows] are grazing, so they’re working off all of those calories, all that food that they are consuming every day, and it takes them a longer time to get to market, so they produce more greenhouse gas emissions,” said Miller. “With the current meat demand, we literally don’t have enough space on the planet for these animals to be humanely raised.” 

Regardless of the type of farm examined, the animal agriculture industry contributes roughly 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions every year, which is similar to the contribution from the transportation industry, Miller said.

“What makes more sense, askingpeople to give up their cars and never drive again, or asking people to eat a rice and beans burrito with guacamole and salsa once a week?” Miller said.

According to Peskin, becoming a vegetarian was easier than she anticipated, and she is glad she made the switch.

“[Going vegetarian] is not about me,” said Peskin. “It’s about the animals and the environment.”