Check out our FIRST EPISODE of the Green Star Podcast! This episode covers all the basics behind the Green Star (and “Reducetarian”) concept as a whole. It’s deep dive into the concepts you need to know, namely how and why the food we eat affects the environment and how our choices in this arena can be SO impactful. If you’re an absolute newcomer to the idea, this is the PERFECT place to start. We really hit it all.
A word of warning, this first pod is rough, raw and totally unedited. There’s no intro, outtro or effects of any kind! We recorded it on a basic rig, essentially in one take, with no script and no intention to do *anything* but get the content out. It’s also longer than strictly advised for a debut pod, so feel free to dabble as suits your needs. You CAN absolutely expect a lot more polish on future installments. For now we’re just excited to have this content online! As with EVERYTHING we truly appreciate your feedback. Til next time, stay green, stay cool.
A rotten odor, a dangerous gas.
Sometime referred to as “the other greenhouse gas”–compared here to carbon–methane (CH₄) is an underestimated an misunderstood driver of global warming (and yes there are more than two greenhouse gasses). To better understand the deleterious effects of methane on environment, it helps to start with some basic facts.
A noxious and foul smelling gas (you’re likely familiar), methane emissions are one of the greatest threats to life on earth! Compared to carbon dioxide, methane in the atmosphere exacts 86 times the total damage (ton for ton)! 86 times more damaging then CO2*, that isn’t a typo.
Of all anthropomorphic greenhouse gas, methane accounts for roughly a quarter. It certainly doesn’t get 25% of the attention paid to carbon and that needs to change. Like carbon emissions, the volume released is steep ascent–no where more than in the developing world. The diverse array of methane sources–from the usual suspects (fossil fuels and animal agriculture) to leaks in the earth’s crust–is objectively fascinating; the solutions even more so. From new aquaculture techniques, to capping leaking wells. As you might have guessed by now, the quickest fix is simply: eating less meat and dairy. yxxxxxx
Ruminant livestock (like cows, sheep and goats) account for 79% of all methane production! Comparatively oil, gas, and coal just 33% (there is of course some overlap). A nearly four-fifths of all methane produced, these livestock account for (roughly) 30% of all man-made emissions. That’s really something to ruminate on.
You may have heard by now that bovine flatulence—of all things—is a significant driver of global warming. It sounds like joke at first but it’s no laughing matter (it is in factcow burps and manure that are most of the problem). If this claim at first seems hard to believe, consider the following. There are as many as 1.5 billion cows on earth, they each have four stomachs, they eat grass and roughage all day. It’s not a pretty picture.
Looking for a silver lining? For all of it’s relative toxicity, methane is dispensed of fairly quickly. The half-life of atmospheric methane is as little as then years, whereas carbon can linger up there for thousands! Whereas with other gases we’re shooting to merely mitigate, our aim with methane can be corrective. Reductions now will be reflected in the atmosphere in only a decade (in 2020 Europe became the first country to achieve said net-reduction). The advantage–beyond the obvious–of the shorter turn around is our ability to witness and measure our success in reducing CH₄. Signs of progress perpetuate hope and engagement success leads to more success.
Methane reduction is a necessary and immediately achievable goal. The first step is awareness.
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* This figure represents damage (broadly speaking) measurable in the first 20 years in the atmosphere. Due to wildly disparate half lives of methane v. carbon a “full life” damage assessment would be an apples to oranges comparison.
Like fire from furniture
The following is Part I in an explanatory series about dietary carbon
When many people first learn about “dietary carbon” and the profligate cost of beef consumption, their first question is why. The answer-–while not obvious–is simple once understood.
The majority of human nutrition is derived from either plant or animal sources but to raise animals, you need start with a lot plants! Domesticated cows eat around 24 lb. (11 kg) daily. Most cows will not be slaughtered until they reach 18 months of age.
When you consume a plant you’re closing the loop on a sublimely efficient process. A plant is grown, harvested and consumed with little more input than water, CO2 and sunshine. When you eat a cow you’re eating 18 months of plants–or at least a portion. This is before you consider the (carbon) costs of raising, boarding, slaughtering, cleaning, freezing, shipping, storing, cooking and much more (more on this in a future post).
Picture that if you will. One day’s lunch could be the year(s) long accumulation of calories and carbon resources OR, the plant inputs required to sustain that same animal for twenty minutes! Seen from this perspective, using meat to satisfy your calorie requirements is like making a bonfire from finished, antique furniture. Lavishly expensive and nonsensically inefficient.
With all factors accounted for, the relative cost of a single cheeseburger is absolutely staggering. Educating ourselves on the relevant science is the best way to consume more mindfully and become better stewards of our planet.
Surf (worse than) Turf?
When it comes to dietary carbon, beef is public enemy one. Beef worse than pork, worse than chicken—with regard to carbon intensiveness—ask any environmentalist. But beef many not necessarily be the worst offender. As is always the case, context matters: the who/what/where and how of food production. In this case, the facts may surprise you. Across the world, in every ocean, it’s the humble shrimp that’s a veritable carbon menace!
Shrimp! More carbon costly than steak? It’s up there—and the details are hair-raising.
While shrimp neither consume nor individually produce a large amount of carbon (in the manner of livestock) it’s the circumstances they’re raised in that’s causing the problem.
Of all the shrimp that end up as food, more than half begin in an aqua-farm. To facilitate aquaculture, coastal sites must first be drained and exfoliated of mangrove trees in a process more damaging even than the felling of forests for cow pasture! By a wide margin the most impactful aspect of beef production is the forested/arable land lost to grazing space, yet according to the Center for International Forestry Research the production of farmed shrimp produces four times as much carbon than beef (pound-for-pound)! According to The Economist, a “surf-and-turf” dinner requires roughly the carbon equivalent of a car ride from New York City to Los Angeles. Often imagined as a “luxury” dish, it’s true expense is staggering.
The “cost” of shrimp however doesn’t end there. Nearly 90% of farmed shrimp comes from outside the U.S., much of that from countries with low-to-no environmental standards. In South East Asia, commercial farmers churn through one lake after another until they are literally septic. The very process of aquatic deforestation leaves low-land regions vulnerable to coastal flooding. The option too of “wild caught” shrimp is fraught with nasty complications–more on this later.
If it’s true that the dangers of beef consumption are underestimated by the general public, then the danger of shrimp is virtually unknown, with global consumption ticking up 5% annually, shrimp alone are a huge problem.
All menu items containing shrimp, crab, or lobster are automatically scored as “Red” on our Carbon Score Indices. As always, it isn’t a question of abstention but of intelligent, mindful consumption.