Reduce, reuse and recycle. These are the three words many of us think of when we hear or talk about global warming. Some individuals are implementing small but positive changes when it comes to our environment by turning off the faucet when we brush our teeth or, as college students, carpooling and walking to our destinations. With a large amount of people contributing, these actions lead to less pollution and less water consumption for sure. However, there is an even larger problem that needs to be focused on pertaining to global warming: animal agriculture.

Animal agriculture is the process of raising and breeding animals for food consumption. And, whether people like to admit it or not, it is much more harmful to our environment than forgetting to shut off the lights or turning off the faucet. According to Climate Nexus, “animal agriculture is the second largest contributor to human-made greenhouse gas emissions after fossil fuels and is a leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution and biodiversity loss.” As humans, we have control over the future state of our environment. Why are we contributing so much harm to it by choosing to constantly rely on animal agriculture?

On the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Resources Institute websites, studies have shown animal agriculture contributes to approximately 14.5 percent of human emissions, with the production of beef contributing to a devastating 41 percent of human emissions. Meat production not only contributes to the release of methane gas (a potent greenhouse gas that is produced by landfill depots), it also contributes to deforestation, as forests are destroyed to make room for pastures. The production of meat also wastes water, a precious resource humans sometimes take for granted. According to the United States Geological Survey, approximately 460 gallons of water are used to produce a quarter pound of beef. When you picture these vast amounts of water being wasted just to produce meat, it is deeply upsetting.

Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint through food intake. Of course, one of the best ways to help the environment would be to cut back on meat consumption. “Meatless Mondays” is not just a hashtag; it is a way of giving back to the environment. Cutting back on dairy consumption is also one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint, which may be easier for some than others. The most effective way of incorporating different foods into your diet is to start out small, and it will become easier over time to not crave certain foods. Some other ways to reduce your carbon footprint through food is to buy less packaged foods, and to buy more organic and locally-produced foods. The transportation of food from one place to another, referred to as “food miles,” also has a devastating effect on the environment.

Personally, I do not like when people tell others what they should and should not be eating. As the saying goes, “you do you.” In writing this piece, the goal is awareness. Animal agriculture is ranked as one of the largest contributors to global warming, as the processes and production of raising animals for food is not only depressing, but incredibly toxic to our environment. As long as individuals are aware of the facts, and the consequences, more and more people will know the truth about climate change and what some of the highest contributors are. This is the only earth we have – we have to do what we have to do to save it.

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