Issue #19: Our Carbon Hoofprint

Rodney B. Murray
Aug 3 · 4 min read

Cows and other ruminants are worse polluters than all of the transportation in the world, so all of us who try to cut down our carbon footprint by lessening our transportation would do far better by just consuming less beef. ~Stephen J. Dubner

Climate change should be top of mind for all of us, especially our politicians. As science has proved, the release into the atmosphere of carbon-containing gas such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) is the leading cause of global warming. You can burn less fossil fuel by owning an electric car, as long as the source of electricity is not coal. By all means, add solar panels to your roof, and fly less, but how else can we reduce our carbon footprint?

In this issue, I cover research on how to make cows burb less methane, how swapping protein sources can halve the carbon footprint of your diet, and how you can reduce your carbon footprint without drastically altering your lifestyle.

Seaweed Makes Cows Burp Less Methane and Cuts Their Carbon Hoofprint

You’re probably much more aware of the carbon released from burning fossil fuels from autos, jets, power plants, forest fires, and deforestation, but did you know …

Each year, livestock production pumps out greenhouse gases with the equivalent warming effect of more than 7 gigatons of carbon dioxide, roughly the same global impact as the transportation industry. Nearly 40% of that is produced during digestion: cattle, goats, and sheep belch and pass methane, a highly potent, albeit relatively short-lived, greenhouse gas.

Credit: James Temple / UC Davis

Good News: More research needs to be done on the health effects of the seaweed — on livestock and humans. However, by adding a small amount of seaweed to the animals’ feed, researchers found, they could cut the cows’ methane production by nearly 60%!

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One Swap Halves the Carbon Footprint of your Diet

The director of nutrition at Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine recently reported the only study of the carbon footprint of individually chosen diets in the US. They hope to raise awareness about the role of the food sector in climate change and the impact of a simple dietary change.

Food production is an important contributor to climate change, accounting for about a quarter of carbon emissions globally, researchers say. For the study, they examined the real-world diets of thousands of people in the United States. … Animal foods contribute more to greenhouse gas emissions than plant foods. Ruminant animal foods such as beef and lamb have particularly high carbon footprints because cows and sheep also release methane gas.

Yum! Chicken burger. Credit: Craig Herring/Flickr

Good News: You don’t have to stop eating meat to lower your carbon footprint! Just substitute a serving of chicken for beef or lamb. As a bonus, eat leftovers and go on a diet to further reduce your carbon footprint. :)

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This Monthly Subscription Offsets Your Carbon Footprint

If you live in the U.S., you probably emit around 19 tons of CO2 in a year. So you do your part by recycling, but you still eat beef, fly a lot for your job, and don’t own an electric car. How can you reduce your carbon footprint and keep your lifestyle?

You might have considered offsetting that footprint by supporting projects that shrink emissions somewhere else in the world — but you might also have read stories about problems in some past projects where trees weren’t actually planted or were later cut down. … “What we kept hearing was, ‘Where does my money actually go? What’s happening here, and how do I know they’re really planting as many trees as they say they will, for instance?’” says Landon Brand… “There’s a lot of potential for fraud in the space. Our initial inspiration was seeing that skepticism that comes from not knowing what happens with your donation.”

Credit: agsandrew/iStock

Good News: A new startup, Project Wren, focuses on transparency, showing customers photos, satellite images, and other data to prove how their money is helping to sequester carbon. For some people, offsetting their entire carbon footprint through the subscription might only cost around $15 a month!

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In my opinion, climate change is an existential threat that will require a national response similar to the magnitude of the US effort during WWII. I am optimistic that we can meet the challenge with ingenuity and technology with new leadership in 2020.

Optimistically yours,
Rod Murray

The GOOD NEWSletter

I scour the Internet for good news, so you don’t have to! Sign up for the email newsletter at www.MilitantOptimist.com.

Rodney B. Murray

Written by

e-Learning executive, podcaster, pharmacologist, motorcyclist and militant optimist

The GOOD NEWSletter

I scour the Internet for good news, so you don’t have to! Sign up for the email newsletter at www.MilitantOptimist.com.

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