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Meat: An Exploration

Ayla Dunn Bieber tackles the subject of meat consumption and how reducing it is the best way to fight climate change…

Meat: it is a hot topic. Below we will be looking strictly at the environmental impacts of eating meat. Spoiler alert – It’s a doozy!

All of the text that I’ve highlighted in green below was taken directly from https://veganuary.com/why/environment/. I found their website hugely informative and well sited and wanted to provide you with direct quotes.

image source: www.gotdrought.info

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, farmed animals contribute 14.5 percent of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than every car, plane, truck and train on the planet. [1]

The largest single cause of deforestation is agriculture. [2] Meaning, due to our global meat demand, we are cutting down the earth’s rainforests to clear more land to either graze game (mostly cattle) or grow crops to feed these animals. We’re losing 18.7 million acres of forests every year – that’s equivalent to 27 soccer fields every minute. [3]

Humans have wiped out 60 percent of animal populations since 1970, with many scientists believing we are in the era of a sixth mass extinction, and the first to be caused by a species. [4]

The three leading causes of this unprecedented massacre are:
-Destruction of habitats, largely to create farmland
-Wild animals being eaten
-Fishing [4]

In fact, agriculture and over-exploitation (including fishing) are significantly greater threats to biodiversity than climate change. [5] Quite simply, eating animal products is destroying our wildlife.

When you read these statistics, how do you feel?

I felt shocked, disgusted, admittedly skeptical, and then ultimately, horrified. Truth be told, I’d been hearing whispers of information like this for some time. But, I chose to look the other way as I very much enjoyed eating meat and felt like my body needed it. That all changed abruptly a few weeks ago, when I got together with a few members of our camp Administration to watch the film “Cowspiracy”.

After watching this film (which did spark debate within the scientific community around how the filmmakers quantified and calculated GHG emissions), I could not ignore the elephant in the room any longer. Though the UN’s 14.5% estimate (the first quote in this article) is likely more accurate than the higher emissions percentage suggested by “Cowspiracy”, the truth is still overwhelmingly clear: WE MUST REDUCE OUR MEAT CONSUMPTION. It is clear that it is the single biggest thing we, as individuals, can do to reduce climate change.

For me, one of the most impactful lines in the movie was last one: ‘You can’t call yourself an environmentalist and eat meat, period’. Daniel and I had begun the conversation about our own meat consumption before the movie, but the pace of our decision making quickened that night. The next day we began our meat-consumption-reduction. So far we have cut out most meat entirely, eating a small amount of chicken or fish (about once a week) and occasionally eating dairy.

I still have a lot to learn and I encourage each of you to dig in with me, if you haven’t already. Let’s continue to educate ourselves so we can be the effective environmentalists we want to be.

A place to start: consider cutting your meat (especially beef) consumption in half. This is a great goal to begin with in this new year!

Our friends at The Hungry Hollow Co-op are offering the coupon below to give readers a discount on produce as we transition towards more plant-centered consumption! Just present your coupon at checkout to receive the discount.

Please share your thoughts and information on this topic. Like all sustainability efforts, it is key that we are in this work together!

 

Until next time,

Ayla

 

1 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, ‘Tackling climate change through livestock: a global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities’, 2013 http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3437e.pdf [Accessed 1 December 2018]
2 ‘Forest conversion’, World Wildlife Fund http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/deforestation/deforestation_causes/forest_conversion/ [Accessed 1 December 2018]
3 ‘Deforestation: overview’, World Wildlife Fund https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation [Accessed 1 December 2018]
4 Damian Carrington, ‘Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, report finds’ The Guardian, 30 Oct 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/30/humanity-wiped-out-animals-since-1970-major-report-finds [Accessed 1 December 2018]
5 Jessica Aldred, ‘Agriculture and overuse greater threats to wildlife than climate change – study’, The Guardian, 10 Aug 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/10/agriculture-and-overuse-greater-threats-to-wildlife-than-climate-change-study [Accessed 1 December 2018]

How to Reduce Electricity Use Part II

How to Reduce Electricity Use Part II
Resources galore!

Ayla Dunn Bieber recommends some resources for energy conservation and websites that show you how to choose your electric supplier. Chock-full of practicality…

Hello all,

While we may not have them every night, Daniel, Odelia, and I have been enjoying our candle-lit dinners immensely. My awareness about turning lights off when I’m moving rooms (or not turning them on at all during the day) has been satisfying, and I’ve switched to doing all laundry using cold water. I’ve also programmed our thermostats to ensure we’re not wasting energy while we’re not home, nor at night when we are cozy in bed. I have some self-judgement that I wasn’t paying more attention to these things before now, but all we can do is continually do better, right?

How is your electricity reduction going? Are there changes you have tried to make?

I wanted to share a few more links to websites with easy and practical information about energy conservation for further tips and inspiration:

Another way to have an impact around sustainable energy is to choose your electric supplier. While we don’t have a say in our electricity distributors (specific companies that own and maintain the poles and wires that get to our homes), we can choose where our electricity comes from (including making greener choices – i.e. wind, solar, hydroelectric).

I was recently directed to NYS Power to Choose by my gas and electric distributor (Orange and Rockland) and was happy to see that once you put in your zip code the site easily compares electric supplier’s rates in your area and tells you if they are green and how so. I found a few sites (there seem to be several) doing a similar thing in NJ (Power2Switch and Choose Energy). Daniel and I chose a new green supplier, which I not only feel better about morally, but which will also save us money too!

I hope you’ve enjoyed our foray into this electrifying topic ;). I can’t wait to explore a different sustainability theme with you all next month. Until then… stay warm (but not too warm) on these cold winter nights.

Don’t forget to take advantage of the ‘20% off candles’ in December’s Dirt that our friends at The Hungry Hollow Co-op have offered in conjunction with our energy reduction efforts these past two months! Offer expires January 15th!

Powering down for now,
Ayla

How to Reduce Electricity Use

It’s more fun than you’d think!

Ayla Dunn Bieber [candle]lights the way toward more conscious energy use in our homes, with tips and activities to help your family reduce your electricity use (and your monthly bill!)…

What better time to talk about energy use (specifically, electricity use) than just after turning the clocks back, when our homes seem darker so much earlier! Personally, I go through phases of being more conscious about my electricity use. I am happy to say that lately I have been in a more aware phase, and even more so after doing research for this ‘scoop’!

So, let’s get into it: “According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if every American replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR light bulb, we would save enough energy to light three million homes for a year, we would save more than $600 million in energy costs in a year, and we would reduce greenhouse gases emissions equivalent to taking 800,000 cars off the road” [source].

What?! Sobering, right? And inspiring!

Here are some fun and easy things you can do at home to 1) increase your family’s attention around your electricity use, and 2) take concrete steps toward energy reduction. I’m so excited to forge some new habits together!

  • Have an electricity free day! Your power doesn’t have to be out to experience the magic this can bring. In fact, we’d like to do it together! NPDC declares Sunday, Nov. 25th a shared electricity-free day! Send us pictures of what your family does with your day (perhaps a picture of your candlelit dinner table?). This is a wonderful way to jump-start bringing attention to your electricity use. Are there certain lights you instinctively turn on when they aren’t actually needed? Do you turn off the lights every time you leave a room? Are there certain lights you leave on all the time? Bringing awareness is the first step toward making long term changes.
  • Get crafty by creating light switch covers to help remind you and your family to turn the lights off! Climatekids NASA has a fun template, but the sky is the limit. Use a design that fits your family!
  • Learn what electronic items in your home are sucking energy while they are powered off!! This is a HUGE one. Here is an informative article on how to identify these items and what to do! If you don’t have time to read the article, the short of it is that we need to either unplug devices (including cell phone chargers and computers) when not in use, or for areas in your home that you have several things plugged in, use a ‘smart power strip‘ that knows when a device is off and shuts down electricity to it. This can save you from all the bending and reaching each time you need to turn your computer on or off etc).
  • Make a commitment to eat dinner only by candle-light – for a night, a week, a month… a year… (who doesn’t love a candlelit dinner!?)

We also love supporting our local co-op, The Hungry Hollow Co-op. When they heard we were writing about energy conservation, they wanted to offer an exclusive deal to our Dirt readers (!!). Stop in and present the coupon (found in November’s issue) for 20% off on a purchase of candles this winter!

I’m so excited to hear how you and your family have fun with this topic! Please keep me posted.

Signing off and shutting down,
Ayla

Waste Not, Want Not…

Ayla Dunn Bieber kicks of this year’s Sustainability Scoop series by diving in to the topic of food waste…

For me, September brings a sharpened focus that rides in with the crisp autumn air.

Our out-breath of summer has begun to shift and we can commit (or re-commit) to what we would like to incorporate into our new year-round schedules. It’s a great time to make a New-Year’s resolution; and what better subject to choose than sustainability? I hope you’re with me!

If you are just joining us, last year’s cycle of The Sustainability Scoop focused on my family’s efforts to reduce our physical trash waste, honing in on plastic and excess packaging (you can read more here).

This year, The Sustainability Scoop widens its scope and will look at other areas in which much work is needed to continue our efforts toward sustainability.  Our theme for our September and October posts will be on Food Waste.

Did you know:

  • “The US Department of Agriculture estimates that 30 – 40 percent of our country’s food supply ends up as food waste. With the USDA estimating that one in six Americans lacks a secure supply of food on their table, this is especially concerning.”1
  • “Recent studies have found that between 20 – 25 percent of disposed trash is food waste. When food waste is buried in landfills, it decomposes and generates methane gas, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. These sites are the third largest source of methane in the US.”1

When I read these statistics I took a huge gulp and felt very unsettled. Up until recently, I was one of the many people who think, ‘Oh, what’s a little food mixed in with the garbage? It will help the rest of the trash break down.’ This statement is NOT TRUE, folks! In addition to the harmful methane gas produced by decomposing food waste in landfills, there is also an incredibly large sustainability issue with the amount of energy it takes to produce the food in the first place, which is then lost. The solution to this dire problem then seems twofold: reducing the amount of food waste we produce by being more conscious of the amount we purchase and about using the food we buy, while also diverting the food we do not consume away from landfills and into composting systems where some of its energy and nutrients are able to be recaptured.

Helpful Tips:

  • Label your food when you put it in the fridge! I, for one, am overly cautious about how long something has been in the fridge. If there is any question as to whether something has gone bad, I air on the side of ‘safety’ and compost it. This, paired with that fact that I always think I will remember what date I cooked something on and then never can, is a recipe for FOOD WASTE. I have thought of putting a piece of tape on containers of leftovers and writing the day they were cooked on it, but haven’t done it as that tape feels wasteful too! A new idea that came to me this morning was to use the whiteboard I already have on my fridge to keep track of the date I put food in (specifically for leftovers and things of that nature). For things like milk, just take a sharpie and write the date you opened it right on it.
  • Here is a link to a great article of reducing food waste at home!

What tricks/tips do you have to REDUCE food waste? Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

In our next issue we’ll talk about why rotting food in a properly aerated compost does not produce methane gas, and where to compost if you don’t have space to make your own. Stay tuned!

1: Edible Jersey Fall 2018, Edition Number 58. If you have a copy, read page 14 or click here to get informed about what all NJ schools are doing to reduce food waste within the school system. It is really inspiring!

Sustainably yours,
Ayla

Garbage Can Challenge – November Update

Hey all! How is everyone doing?

Refresher: Last month I set a family goal of reducing our garbage production by 1/2…

Well, our family garbage count this month did not reach our goal. We did have about a foot of empty space at the top of the can though. I would say it was still a little over 3/4 of the way full. While I felt slightly defeated, I was also happy to see some improvement! It’s made me realize this is going to be a process. No surprise, as there are rarely any quick fixes in life, right? I’m reminded that creating a sustainable model is so much more important than a quick fix. I’d like to apply that lesson here and take a slight amount of pressure off of reaching an ambitious goal, and focus more on how to get there. I’m going to allow myself the time to reach my goal over the course of this year, as I find alternatives to some of my plastic consumption and create sustainable new habits.

The other day I had a wonderful conversation with my neighbor, who is an avid recycler and garbage-aware person. She said something that struck me as profound. She said, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, there’s a reason it’s in that order! Reduce is the operative and most important word here”. Kind of obvious, right? Maybe I am showing my naïveté, but I had never realized the order of the words in that phrase! I mentioned in my last post that I noticed there were some things I had been throwing away that could be recycled, and that my recycling bins have been more full then ever now. And while recycling is important, reduction is most imperative.

The same neighbor also mentioned a segment on NPR she heard called, Why Recycling Options Lead People To Waste More; it highlights some studies showing that if we know something can be recycled we are more likely to overuse and waste it. Click here to read/listen to the 3 minute story. It’s really interesting!

So, my take-away and focus for this next month is going to be starting at the top – the number one R, REDUCE! My biggest reduction effort this past month was switching to cloth diapers for my daughter. I had always thought I would cloth diaper my child, but for a variety of reasons got hooked on disposables. After trying several kinds of cloth diapers (you wouldn’t believe how many types of cloth diapers are on the market these days), I have found some that work for us and am absolutely thrilled. This switch was, for sure, the main reason our garbage production was reduced this past month.

What’s in your garbage can? Most of our family’s garbage is plastic from food packaging. I am beginning to think about some items I might be willing to give up the store bought version of and consistently make my own instead, or buy in a package-free version. I invite you to do the same. Any bread, cheese, or tortilla chip makers out there? How about laundry detergent, deodorant or toothpaste makers? Please, share recipes in the comments section of our blog!

Some REDUCTION ideas:

  • Bring your own grocery bags and shopping bags – an obvious one.
  • Compost – if you aren’t already. I recently read that 40% of municipal waste is compostable!
  • Just say no to plastic produce bags! Use reusable bags instead.
  • Buy in bulk when you can, and bring your own container for your bulk items. I haven’t been to a small food co-op that wasn’t on board with this one. I even brought some glass jars to fill at Fairway this month (this was not so easy and they were a bit annoyed, however). There are several ‘zero-waste’ stores in NYC. Check them out! Wish I lived closer to these.
  • Make your own  ______ (fill in the blank, the options are endless).

Signing off for now,

Ayla