Eat Less Meat
Until recently, I owned a Prius and I can tell you that’s it’s easily the finest car I’ve ever driven. As traveling goes, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as driving 500 miles, roughly 20 percent of the distance from New York to Los Angeles, on a single 11-gallon tank of gas, while also knowing that you’ve generated nearly zero emissions. Plus, the LED screen on the dash that displays your real time miles-per-gallon via two different visual representations almost becomes like a video game that intuitively re-teaches you how to drive, by letting you know when you should ease up on the gas pedal thus using more of the electric motor and less of the gas engine (the Prius doesn’t need to be plugged in — it charges its battery using the gas engine and the kinetic energy from braking and coasting of the car).
It’s a fantastic vehicle, and I wish I could report that the Great Recession didn’t hammer my personal finances forcing me to give up my Prius and to settle for a higher emissions, less fuel efficient car. But it did. Thanks, Great Recession.
But I figured out a solution for achieving the environmental benefits of the Prius without actually owning one. Ready?
Eat less beef.
By reducing your meat consumption by 20 percent, you’ll achieve the same positive impact on climate crisis as you would by switching from a Camry-sized car to a Prius, and you don’t have to cover the monthly payments, the insurance premiums or the minimal cost of fuel (you still have to buy gas for a Prius). It turns out that the simple act of going meatless once out of every five meals is roughly the carbon footprint equivalent of trading in a four-door sedan for a Prius, based on the meat consumption of an average American. It reduces your carbon footprint by half-a-ton of carbon per year. Again, this isn’t to say you can drive a massive Hummer or other gas guzzler and make up for the Godzilla-sized footprint by eating less meat; the calculations are based on switching from an average sedan-sized car to a Prius.
Some additional items of note about American meat production:
-The UN reports that meat production is responsible for 20 percent of greenhouse gasses, more than is produced by cars, trucks and airplanes.
-America is 5 percent of the population, but we consume 15 percent of the world’s total meat products. Around 10 billion heads of livestock annually.
-The production of just 2.2 lbs of beef is the environmental equivalent of driving a European-style car for 155 miles. Four McDonald’s Quarter Pounders.
-We’re eating 50 lbs more beef now than we did 50 years ago, and twice the USDA recommended daily allowance of beef.
Needless to say, we’re eating too much meat.
Now, while I’m an animal rights supporter, I’m not going to guilt you into going vegetarian or vegan. If you love beef and you don’t mind where it comes from and you simply can’t live without it, have at it. All I’m suggesting here is a path towards achieving a significant reduction in our carbon footprint by going vegetarian for one out of every fifth meat meal. It’s actually much easier than buying a new Prius, and it’s less expensive that buying beef. And if you can get your hands on locally raised beef, even better.
So there’s your Prius. And you can still shove burgers and steaks into your face if you want to. Win win.