What can I do to create a more sustainable community?

Local Seattle Summer Produce

By increasing your plant-based diet, you can decrease your food production footprint.

I know that creating change in the world begins with me. As with many people, I want someone else to be the change. It’s easier to think that someone else needs to be educated or someone else will ride the bus. But, more often than not, I can help develop a more sustainable world, just by changing my own habits. So, what can I do?

Eat less meat… Meatless Mondays, for example. I must admit, I eat meat, because I like it. Maybe it’s my German heritage. I have limited my meat intake over the years by adding it as a flavoring, such as meatballs in spaghetti sauce or chicken in a stir fry, rather than meat as a centerpiece of the meal. I also make sure the meat is more sustainably grown, by purchasing grass-fed beef or organic chicken.

I know that I can step it up and eat less meat so I am making a new commitment to eating less meat by starting Tofu Thursdays. So often my children want to eat what their friends eat: highly processed foods, filled with sugar, fat, and salt! Last Thursday, I made Orange Ginger Tofu, and for Meatless Mondays I made Tuscan Bean Soup all from Terry Walters’ Clean Food. My teenage children liked them!

Why is it important to me to eat less meat? If I ate a high-fat and meat diet, I would need just over 2 acres of land to be fully fed each year. If I ate a low-fat vegetarian diet, I would need less than a 1/2-acre of land to be satiated every year, according to a study in the Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems (2007) journal. For my family of four, there is a significant difference between needing over eight acres each year to feed us versus only two acres to nourish us. By increasing my plant-based diet, I’m decreasing my food production footprint.

There are many other reasons to eat less meat including inordinate amounts of water, increased methane gas production, and huge quantities of grain grown just for meat production. The quantity of land alone needed to produce my food is enough for me to decrease my meat intake.

Please join me by changing your habits, too! If each of committed to eliminating (or at least reducing the quantity of) meat from one or more meals a week our world would be better — one…incremental…step… at a time.

Kathryn Gardow, P.E., is a land use expert and owner of Gardow Consulting—Land Matters Food Matters, an organization dedicated to providing multidisciplinary solutions to building sustainable communities. Kathryn has expertise in project management, planning, and civil engineering, with an emphasis on creating communities that include food production. Kathryn’s blog will brainstorm on ways to create a more sustainable world.

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