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Finish your veggies

The GreenMan | Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Loyal readers,

People always ask me how I manage to keep so trim and maintain my healthy green glow. Of course I never tell them, but now I intend to share part of my secret with all of you.

You ready?

I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Yes, dear readers, I am a vegetarian. I avoid eating meat not only for my health (studies show that vegetarians tend to be at a lower risk of coronary heart disease) but also for environmental reasons. What we choose to eat has huge impacts on the environment.

Take a single quarter-pound hamburger, for instance. Seems pretty harmless, right? Oh boy. Nope. There’s a lot more than “meats” the eye here. Puns. Anyway. That hamburger has a dark past. Let’s investigate, shall we? 6.7 pounds of grain were needed to feed the cow. 52.8 gallons of water were used as drinking water and to irrigate the feed crop. 72.5 square feet of land were needed to grow the grains and for grazing.

Finally, 1,026 British Thermal Units (BTU) of fossil fuel energy went into transportation and feed production. All those resources needed to produce just a quarter-pound hamburger!  

Pretty shocking, right? Massive amounts of resources go into producing meat products and Americans eat more meat than just about anyone in the world. The average American consumes 270 pounds of meat a year, which is well over the global average of 102 pounds. 

It’s not just what we eat that’s important. It’s also about where that food comes from and how it’s grown.

Organic agriculture, for instance, is good because no pesticides or synthetic chemical fertilizers are used, which can pollute waterways. It is not, however, foolproof. Buying something that is grown organically in, say, Chile is good because it supports more sustainable farming practices, but bad because of the fossil fuels it takes to transport that product to your local grocery store. 

Ah-ha! How about locally grown organic fruits and vegetables? Yes, those are both very good things, but there is still more to consider. Is that fruit or vegetable well-adapted to your local region? If not, it could mean that more resources went into producing that food than if better adapted crops were used for food production. 

There are certainly a lot of factors to consider when it comes to what food you put on your plate. Knowing what sorts of factors to consider, however, gives you a lot of power. And like Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I’m a huge comic book fan.

We, as citizens of this great planet, have a responsibility to sustain Earth’s natural resources so that future generations can thrive. You can help us achieve sustainability. The first step is as easy as finishing your veggies. 

Until next time,

The GreenMan

Email your predicaments to The GreenMan at
[email protected] and let him answer you with a sustainable twist. The GreenMan will be here every other week to provide you with insights you never knew you were missing out on until now.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.