A letter to a sustainability committee

So I know VeganMoFo is supposed to be all about celebrating vegan food but I wanted to share this letter with ya’ll in case anyone wants to use it for some other (vegan) purpose. I haven’t sent it yet so any criticisms or edits are appreciated!

Members of the Recycling and Sustainability Committee,

I applaud your recent efforts at making **** a more sustainable place to work and go to school. As someone who actively works at weighing the environmental consequences for most actions in my life I am glad to see that *** is taking a positive step forward. I am writing you to address some concerns that I have about some recent efforts to promote lowering carbon emissions.

As someone who has chosen to carpool to work with an older but efficient car rather than buy an expensive car that I do not have the means for, I have noticed the recent push to reward those that can afford newer cars without taking into consideration other factors that contribute more significantly to global warming. I feel, perhaps, I could help better inform this committee. While I think that driving a hybrid car instead of an old jalopy with a poor exhaust system that gets nine miles to the gallon is certainly better for air pollution it has been proven that people can make a much greater impact doing something that is simpler and requires no personal monetary investment. Switching from a meat based diet to a primarily plant-based diet has dramatic repercussions for the environment. Changing your diet is considerably more cost effective and uses less natural and personal resources than buying a hybrid car.

Recently, the United Nations published a report on livestock and the environment with a stunning conclusion: “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” It turns out that raising animals for food is a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and not least of all, global warming.

To illustrate more clearly, a recent study in New Scientist concluded that two pounds of beef produce the greenhouse gas emissions of a three hour drive.

Nearly every aspect of the meat and dairy industry creates environmental destruction. Most of the crops grown in the world are not used to feed people but instead used for livestock. Cattle, for example, consume fourteen times more grain than they produce as meat. 800 million people in the world are starving from malnutrition while five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock than as through direct grain consumption. In addition, 30 percent of earth’s ice-free land in the world is used to grow more and more livestock. All around the world people are cutting down the rain forests that are vital for the survival of every living thing on this planet to allow for the beef and dairy industries. Livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation. Many people have visions of happy cattle grazing on green grass. The fact is that the great majorities of animals are trapped in giant plants, fed on grains laced with antibiotics and other chemicals to fatten them and keep them alive just long enough to take to slaughterhouses.

Meanwhile, the great quantity of waste from the cows, pigs, and chickens contributes to polluting the air and water. Industrial agriculture adds so much manure that it is calculated to add 4.6 tons of manure per second (291 billion pounds a year.) to our world. In some cases, the land around them becomes so toxic that plants can’t even survive, much less humans and other mammals.

If you also take into account the whole transportation chain; corn and soy must be grown, transported, processed into feed, transported, consumed by animals which are then transported to slaughter, transported to be processed into consumable items, refrigerated and transported to the store, sold, transported by the consumer, refrigerated, and then finally prepared, you can see how many fossil fuels are used in addition to just keeping the livestock alive.

In addition to all the environmental havoc meat production causes, it also has been repeatedly shown to contribute poorly to people’s health. Heart Disease, the leading killer of Americans, along with diabetes and many forms of cancer have all been scientifically linked to meat and dairy consumption. The American Dietary Association has released information that a plant based diet is very healthy.

I think raising awareness for a plant based diet should be at the heart of any initiatives the college takes at promoting sustainability. A great start would be allowing vegetarians the use of the “green” parking spots, and to prominently display the reason why. I would also really encourage the committee to look into making sure that plant-based offerings exist for any campus activities. For many years I have attended the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and back to school parties where the only choice for someone who does not consume animal products is the slice of tomato or a jalapeño. I think these efforts could expand to the in school cafes as well as promoting vegan options at meetings and other *** functions. It isn’t enough, though, to have options. We must work together to promote this simple path towards sustainability.

The heart of our mission at *** is to be a catalyst for economic development, social equity, and personal enrichment. There is no quicker way to achieve these goals than to teach everyone a better way to live in world.

4 thoughts on “A letter to a sustainability committee

  1. taleoftwovegans

    This is such a well written letter – it seems to me that so many vegans are capable of writing incredibly informative and articulate letters. Obviously, it helps when you feel so passionate about something. I’m glad you’re targeting a college for misled green initiatives. I (along with many other vegans, I suspect), am constantly astonished that a plant based diet is not ever on the list of things you can do to ‘green’ your life. I hope that this will change, and I’m sure letters like this do help. After reading some (I should do more) on climate change, I truly believe that the earth is going to be highly unlivable within the next couple of generations – I’m afraid that my children, should I choose to have them, won’t have the chance to live out their lives. And, if you aren’t vegan, you are part of the problem, not the solution.

    Ugh, this stuff makes me so frustrated. Kudos to you for doing something, which is a heck of a lot more than can be said for most.

    I’m sure you’ll catch it before sending it, but just in case (I know I can re-read things 10 times and still miss little typos), it seems that you are missing a ‘the’ in the last sentence.

    -Eve

  2. Susan Kelley

    Wonderful points backed up with statistics to show that reducing meat and dairy consumption is perhaps the cheapest and most effective way to help the environment and stave off the Greenhouse Effect.

  3. fortheloveofguava

    I often wonder how many people see the connection… well said lady… kudos & amen sister!

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