Photo Illustration: Green Earth

by Michele McKay

If we really want our world to have a cleaner, safer environment the most effective action we can take involves a simple thing we do every day: choosing what products to eat and to use. A healthy vegetarian diet based on organic, natural foods and the use of non-toxic household products work together to promote sustainability and a clean environment in a host of ways. When we make eco-friendly choices we foster clean air, water, and land, which benefit us in return by supporting our good health as individuals and communities. Healthy living and a healthy planet go hand-in-hand.

What you can do

Go veggie

Choosing a vegetarian diet is the single most important thing you can do for the environment. Consider the ecological havoc caused by raising animals for meat:

  • Global warming – Raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gas than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. Reducing meat production could rapidly lower the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
  • Pollution – In the US, 130 times more sewage waste comes from livestock than from people. The livestock industry causes more water pollution than any other activity and is responsible for the contamination of soils, rivers, and streams with pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones, manure, and heavy metals.
  • Water use – Producing one pound of meat requires 100 times more water than growing a pound of soy, and 1,000 times more water than a pound of wheat.
  • Deforestation and loss of biodiversity – 70% of all agricultural land is used for livestock (this represents 30% of the earth’s entire land surface). Forests are burned to create pastures, destroying habitat and causing incalculable loss of plant and animal species. In addition, slash-and-burning releases vast quantities of CO2.
  • Soil erosion – Animal farming is responsible for 85% of the soil erosion in the United States, and contributes heavily to the loss of irreplaceable topsoil.

Buy organic

The Organic Label means organic produce is grown without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; ionizing radiation, or GMOs. Organic dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic products are good for our bodies, they are sustainable, and they promote ecological harmony. Organic farming methods keep toxic agricultural chemicals off the land and out of our water and air, serving to build long-term soil fertility, benefit wildlife, and support biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.

Use natural, non-toxic personal care and household products

Make earth-friendly choices to keep hazardous chemicals out of your home environment. You’ll also be keeping them from contaminating our planet’s environment via their production, their use, and their disposal. What you do for your own good health will ultimately benefit the Earth’s good health!