Make Every day Earth Day by Dreaming of a 'Green' Christmas

by Michele McKay

The holiday season is a time of giving and receiving, but not many people think about what they can give back to Mother Earth. This year you can make your holiday celebrations eco-friendly – and in return, you will receive the knowledge that you have helped make your home and the planet a ‘greener’ place.

The holidays can be extra tough on the environment: extra waste is generated from packaging and wrappers, more gas is burned on shopping trips, and many megawatts of energy go into light displays. Celebrate the planet this year with these eco-friendly holiday tips:

  • Enjoy delicious, healthy holiday feasts vegetarian-style… no other single action causes more environmental destruction than raising animals for slaughter. Need recipes? Find them at www.downtoearth.org.
  • Just say “no” to wrapping paper. Decorate and reuse shopping bags, magazine pages, newspaper, tissue paper, boxes, tins, cloth… you name it.
  • Give ‘wrapperless’ and non-consuming gifts. How about a donation to a favorite charity or an ‘adoption’ program that helps endangered species or ecosystems? Or give the gift of an experience – a special meal or a ticket to an attraction/performance/event.
  • Make your own greeting cards from used materials, or go paperless altogether by phoning loved ones or sending electronic greetings.
  • Use canvas or ‘reused’ bags from home when shopping.
  • Save gas by combining shopping trips or by doing your shopping online.
  • Cut energy consumption by reducing the display time of your holiday lights.
  • Buy recycled. Purchase gifts or cards that are made of recycled materials. Look for the green ‘chasing arrows’ on packages, and support the companies that are making waste into new goods.
  • Recharge. If you are giving something that requires batteries, include rechargeable batteries and a charger with the gift.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle in holiday entertaining. Go with reusable dinnerware and cloth napkins, and recycle your beverage and other containers.
  • Have your Christmas tree chipped and composted. On O’ahu call 692-5410 or visit www.opala.org for more information. On Maui call 270-7874.
  • Or… here in the Islands it is easy to find an alternative to a cut tree. Live trees will bring years of enjoyment when planted outside after the holidays. Or get creative and decorate a beautiful tropical plant that can live indoors or outdoors.

Love Life

Photo: Cow with a Farm Dog

What makes it wrong to eat a pet that has a unique and lovable personality, but okay to slaughter other animals and put them on the dinner table?

It’s true that pets often earn a special place in our hearts. When you get home from work and your dog runs up and licks you in the face to welcome you--wagging his tail wildly—you can’t help yourself. Your dog loves you and you can’t help but love him back. Some would say that’s because, indeed, there is a person inside there. We often feel deep compassion for such animals.

But what about cows, calves, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and other animals we find cute and endearing in so many ways? Are they not deserving of your compassion, too? For those who enjoy eating meat, which is really the flesh of slaughtered animals, trying to answer this question can lead to a painful realization.

The fact is that animals on today's factory farms have no legal protection from cruelty that would be illegal if it were inflicted on dogs or cats. Yet farmed animals are no less intelligent or capable of feeling pain than are the dogs and cats we cherish as companions.

Each year in the United States, approximately ten billion land animals are raised and slaughtered for human consumption. Given the suffering these animals endure, and given that all our nutritional needs can easily be satisfied without eating these animals, vegetarianism is morally required. The fact is that eating animals is unnecessary because nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and dairy products for human sustenance. Therefore, the slaughter of animals for food is a luxury rather than a necessity and is morally wrong.

A vegetarian lifestyle awakens our spirit of compassion and guides us towards a kinder, gentler society in which we exercise a moral choice to protect animals—not exploit them.

Down to Earth’s slogan is Love Life! It is based on the idea that one should “Love animals, not eat them.”

Say No to Factory Farms: A Triple-Win Solution

Photo: Pigs on a Factory Farm

by Michele McKay

Huge factory farms, known in the industry as “Confined Animal Feeding Operations” (CAFOs), raise thousands of animals under severely crowded conditions for the purpose of slaughter. CAFOs have long been recognized by scientists as potential sources of new and dangerous influenza viruses that could infect humans. "These mixing bowls of intensive operations of chickens and pigs are contributing to speeding up viral evolution,” says Ellen Silbergeld, a leading researcher of pathogen evolution in CAFOs and professor of environmental health sciences at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Recent outbreaks of swine and avian flu affirm that CAFOs are a threat to public health. However meat production also threatens our planet’s health – it’s the number one cause of global environmental damage. In choosing a vegetarian diet you can help the world to:

Reduce global warming

In its 2006 report, the United Nations said raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. Most of it comes from methane gas generated by manure. Reducing demand for meat could rapidly lower atmospheric gases that are key contributors to global warming.

Save vast amounts of water

Producing a pound of soy requires approximately 250 gallons of water, and a pound of wheat only 25 gallons. However, it takes a whopping 2,500 gallons to produce a pound of beef, a tremendous waste in our water-short world.

Avoid pollution of waterways

Farmed animals produce about 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population of the US, yet CAFOs and factory farms don't have sewage treatment systems. Manure, antibiotics, growth hormones, fertilizers, pesticides, and other livestock-related effluents pollute rivers and streams, and they enter the human food chain through water supplies.

Reduce the loss of wildlife habitat and biodiversity

Clearing land to create pasture or grow animal feed results in deforestation, ecosystem destruction, and the incalculable loss of plant and animal species (and also releases vast CO2 stores). Today, 30% of the earth’s entire land surface – or 70% of all agricultural land – goes to supporting livestock.

Ensure environmental sustainability

The production of animal flesh requires up to three times as many resources as the production of plant foods, while causing pollution, global warming, habitat destruction, species loss, water conflicts, and strains on land use. A vegetarian diet is our best step toward environmental sustainability.

What you can do

Say “NO” to meat production and CAFOs by adopting a plant-based diet. You will be protecting public health, preventing the extreme suffering of animals, and caring for the planet every time you eat. It’s a triple win-win solution to serious global challenges.

Celebrate a Turkey-free Thanksgiving

Photo: Turkey

As we plan menus for this year's Thanksgiving dinner, consider that a vegetarian lifestyle awakens our spirit of compassion and guides us towards a kinder, gentler society in which we exercise a moral choice to protect animals—not exploit them.

So why not celebrate this year’s Thanksgiving with a turkey-free dinner? Each year, over 5 million turkeys are raised under horrible conditions and then slaughtered for holiday feasting. What a great opportunity to protect animals, by reducing so much pain and suffering. Just skip the buzzard!

It’s not only good for the turkeys; a vegetarian diet is good your health, too! Contrary to what you might expect, turkey flesh is extremely high in both fat and cholesterol. No, you say? Where do you think that deep pool of fat comes from in the bottom of the roasting pan? The American Dietetic Association states that vegetarians have “lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; ... lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer” and that vegetarians are less likely than meat-eaters to be obese.

It turns out that what’s good for your health is also good for the planet. Aside from being able to smell them from a mile away, factory farms make a huge negative impact on the environment. Turkeys and other animals raised for food produce 130 times as much excrement as the entire U.S. human population—all without the benefit of waste treatment systems. There are no federal guidelines to regulate how factory farms treat, store, and dispose of the trillions of pounds of concentrated, untreated animal excrement that they produce each year. (See: http://www.goveg.com/f-top10turkeys.asp).

Thanksgiving was originally meant to celebrate the fall harvest. We propose that given the suffering animals endure as they are raised and slaughtered for food, and given that all our nutritional needs can easily be satisfied without eating these animals, a vegetarian Thanksgiving is morally required.

Rather than contribute to the whimsical slaughter of millions of innocent turkeys, you can truly celebrate the season's harvest by enjoying all the fresh fruits and vegetables that nature has to offer. Better yet, when available, buy local seasonal fruits and vegetables. By feeding your loved ones wholesome and nutritious all-vegetarian food, instead of meat, you get to show your compassion. And, simply by having a turkey-free Thanksgiving you get to contribute to better health and a cleaner and safer environment.

Be sure to check out our fabulous all-vegetarian holiday recipes available on our website (downtoearth.org) and this month’s Health Tip on "Perfect Foods for Fall."

Knowing When to Say When

by Michael Bond

No, this is not an article about drinking and driving. It is about common sense and respect for nature. Big business has for years poisoned our food and water supplies with all sorts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the name of “progress.” It was really just a determined few who managed to preserve any meaning to the word “organic.”

Over the last decade we sat back and allowed Genetically Modified Organisms to contaminate nearly all major staples of grains and vegetables. When scientists started mixing genes of fish with tomatoes, they not only threatened the existence of every vegetarian, but everyone who believes in eating food the way nature intended it.

But now, scientists are stepping across an ethical line. The FDA just released a draft risk assessment stating “that meat and milk from clones and their offspring are as safe as food we eat every day.” Ian Wilmut (the scientist who produced Dolly, the famous cloned sheep, in 1997) warned that even small imbalances in a clone’s hormone, protein or fat levels could compromise the safety of its milk or meat.

Some consumer groups argue that the government should at least require such food to carry special labels. Others complain the foods have not been proven safe. But as we have already seen with the FDA’s rubber stamp of GMO foods, special labels or truly objective studies will not do much to protect you from the possible dangers of eating products from cloned animals.

Livestock cloning raises numerous health and ethical concerns. Over 99 percent of cloning attempts fail. Thus there is an obvious increase in animal cruelty, as the process involves needless suffering of the surrogate mothers, along with the deformed and sick offspring that often result. But even among the “successful” clones, cloned animals that are born have more health problems and higher mortality rates than sexually reproduced animals.

While Down to Earth customers obviously will not have to worry about buying meat from cloned animals at our stores, milk from cloned cows could eventually end up in some of our dairy products. But milk from cloned cows could not be labeled organic. So, given that the FDA will probably not be labeling products containing cloned animal ingredients, buying organic may be the only way to avoid it.

It is not too late for you to make a difference. The FDA is accepting public comments for 90 days. Find out more from https://www.fda.gov.

Footnotes: 

For more information and to find out how you can help visit the Center for Food Safety’s website at: www.centerforfoodsafety.org/geneticall4.cfm