Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Jane and I are sitting here watching television. We're both actually glued to the television, and I find myself writing this post during commercial breaks. What has us so captivated? We're watching National Geographic: Six Degrees Could Change the World, it's a program devoted to what might happen as global warming increases the temperature of our planet one degree at a time. It's based on the book Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, by Mark Lynas. Since we never got around to watching An Inconvenient Truth, I can't speak to how much of this is overlap, but it's a pretty impactful thing to watch.

There is a segment early on, which discusses the carbon impact of the little things we do in our daily lives. The segment is authored by Jamais Cascio, and his in depth analysis on eating cheeseburgers can be found here. But the bottom line:

The greenhouse gas emissions arising every year from the production and consumption of cheeseburgers is roughly the amount emitted by 6.5 million to 19.6 million SUVs. There are now approximately 16 million SUVs currently on the road in the US. (note: The 6.5 million SUVs are the equivalent of consuming one cheeseburger per person, per week, 19.6 million SUVs corresponds to three cheeseburgers per person, per week. This relates to US consumption.)

Unfortunately, the National Geographic program doesn't drive home the point that eating lower on the food chain is a more carbon-friendly thing to do. They also don't discuss eating locally as another option to help reduce the carbon output. For more on this, see our posts "More Reasons Not To Eat Meat" and "Vegan Eating Trumps Eating Locally."

The basic premise of Six Degrees, is that things will become untenable if we remain on our current course. We have a limited opportunity of time to make effective changes. Though the program doesn't mention it, eating vegan is very easy change to make which can have a dramatic input on your carbon output.


  1. This omission (“Go Vegan”) is fairly consistent throughout the environmentalist movement. A compilation of the most common policy proposals and suggested lifestyle alterations shows that this prescription is absent, and it’s revealing.

    I’ve written about this before because it seems to me that this omission illuminates both an internal contradiction in “new environmentalist” and hypocrisy on the part of environmentalists.

  2. Hi Alex,
    Jane and I believe that convenience seems to be the most important component in getting people to change. Part of our mission here is to point out how easy and convenient it is to go vegan. Hopefully we’re not simply “preaching to the choir” and can actually make an impact.

  3. I’ve seen the Nat Geo program, and also enjoyed it. One thing I’m unsure of (not a vegan myself) is why eating meat that isn’t necessarily as wasteful as say, grain fed beef, is wasteful. What about rabbits, or other animals which multiply quickly and do not require such large amounts of plant food as beef? I’m just wondering here.

  4. Hi Justin,
    It’s my understanding that the primary reason eating meat in general is wasteful is that even rabbits and chickens need to be fed. People can eat the grains that are being fed to animals. So by eating meat, you are introducing a step which requires a certain amount of grain to be fed to an animal (to raise it to maturity) which then produces a much smaller amount of meat. That’s inefficient.

    Eric Marcus over at has written that chickens, in particular are an “efficient” meat. After thinking about this for awhile I’m not sure I agree with him, as the chicken still has to be raised before it is killed for food, and it consumes more finished food product than it results in after it is processed. Anyway here’s the link to our post on Marcus’ info including a link to his article and reader comments.
    Hope this helps.

  5. Hi Elizabeth,
    Jane and I are more cynical. We suspect that the media is afraid of alienating their sponsors, and that’s probably the main reason why going vegan is never (very rarely) mentioned as a green alternative.

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