Tip #11: Go meatless one day a week

Before I start, let me say, that not eating meat one day a week isn’t so crazy! I bet there are plenty of days that you do it, when you are cramming for something and all you eat is a left over piece of cheese pizza and a poptart.

(side note, I hope days like that are not common for anyone)

Meat, though delicious, is actually pretty inefficient in terms of land use, carbon emissions and nutrients.

The United Nations estimated in 2006 that meat makes up one fifth of the world’s man made greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, methane, which is far more potent of a greenhouse gas than CO2. Every year, we increase the amount of mouths to feed, which increases the amount of feed we need. Though a lot of countries consume smaller portions of meat, first world countries like the United States make up for it pretty well, when the average American eats over 130 pounds of meat a year. That’s about 1/3 pound of meat a day.

And when we’re comparing vegetables (which we should have a lot of) and meat, it’s pretty clear which is the best for us on an individual scale, as well.

BEEF

This is the nutrition facts for a pound of beef, from fatsecret.com and

cauliflower

this is the nutrition in a pound of cauliflower, also from fatsecret.com

Cauliflower has a lot more of the important things we need: high potassium, vitamins A and C, high iron, low cholesterol and sodium, as well as low in carbohydrates. It’s also high in fiber and low in sugar. Plus, if you grate it up, cook it in olive oil on the stove top with a lot of spices, it makes an awesome dinner.

Meat should be a complement to vegetables, and vegetables should make up the majority of what you eat. Think about reducing the amount of meat once a week, and upping your vegetables instead!

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Tip #10: Enjoy the outdoors

This tip is not really a “tip” in the same way that the other ones have been. In the past I’ve suggested recycling and reducing energy use, which have physical outcomes, but tip #10 is less tangible.

The real key to living a sustainable life is truly loving the earth around you. If you never go outside, if you never swim in a lake or climb a tree, being sustainable is not going to be easy. If you go outside and enjoy all the elements, then being a sustainer -as I like to call it- will come naturally.

I know a lot of people like to call Missouri “Misery,” but Missouri is just as beautiful as all the other places I’ve been. So many things about this place are absolutely amazing, but those things can be hard to see if you’ve only ever lived here your whole life. So as a western girl who lived on a dry mountaintop for half of her life, I’m going to remind you of what beautiful things are here in the plains.

1. Spring is a thing here. A real thing. In Colorado “Spring” is the one week of the year when the trees go from leafless to growing leaves again. There are no flowers on the trees where I’m from at 8,500 ft. above sea level, only green aspen leaves and pine needles. Here in Missouri, you have these grand Dogwood trees which are easily some of the most beautiful vegetation I have ever seen. They are even pink!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(thelighthouseonline.com)

2. On the subject of seasons, Autumn is also a thing here. In my town, Autumn is also one week, and the trees are all the same color, because they are all aspens. In Missouri, you not only have yellow and orange leaves, but red! And pink! And even purple! You have so many trees here, and all of them are so beautiful!

Picture-10

(Missouri Department of Conservation)

3. The water. In the west, the landscape is so beautiful, but so incredibly dry. Here, it rains all the time! Sometimes, even for days at a time. I lived in a place called “The City Above the Clouds,” and though it was hardly a city, it was definitely above the clouds. It was sunny 364 days a year in my hometown, even if it rained or snowed, later in the day it would be bright and sunny. Here in Missouri, you have rain for hours at a time. And when it rains in the summer, it’s warm rain. You can go outside and walk or run in it, and you won’t get hypothermia.

It’s not just the rain either. You also have Lake of the Ozarks here, and you have amazing waterfalls like this:

dsc_03682011arapriltrip_001

(https://ozarksphotos.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/dsc_03682011arapriltrip_001.jpg)

only two hours away from Columbia!

4. The Missouri Department of Conservation is one of the best in the nation. If you can see the vague outline of Missouri here, you can see how many parks you have:

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(Google Maps)

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources manages 87 state parks and plenty of national parks, not to mention things like the MKT and the Katy Trail, which are amazing places to stroll and ride your bike.

5. Grass. Grass grows here naturally, and there is no necessity for turf or even irrigation, really. It is so wet and close to sea level here that grass is natural. This is what the backyard of my house looks like back home:

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

Bonus element of seeing my amazing junior year prom dress. You’re welcome.

What you can’t see in that picture, is that I’m wearing flip flops. Because even though I would have loved to walk barefoot in my prom dress through my backyard, I couldn’t, because those blades of grass are the texture of little plastic legos, just waiting to destroy the bottoms of your feet.

Here in Missouri, you can walk everywhere barefoot! The grass is green and beautiful, and thick and feels like pillows on your feet.

Finally, the thing that I love the most here, is that you can go outside when it’s dark and not need a jacket. At 8,500 feet above sea level, you never leave the house without a jacket; if the sun goes down, it will be cold. Here in Missouri, I can walk around in the summer all ad-hoc and willy nilly, with no plan for the weather to change, because the likelihood of a winter storm in April or May is so low, that I needn’t worry. Back home, a jacket was a necessity, at all times. Even in July.

So please, go out and enjoy how beautiful Missouri can be. You don’t have to visit a national park or go to the Ozarks to see it’s beauty. Just walk outside and drink a beer. Fall in love with the world around you.

Tip #9: Check Your Foods for Palm Oil

The deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest will leave species like the orangutan extinct in the next 5-10 years if kept at the same pace.

Normally I wouldn’t start off with a scary statistic like that, but like every Greenpeace volunteer ever has reminded you, the rainforests of the world are kind of a big deal, and deforestation really does start and end with us- the consumer.

Palm oil has become more and more popular to put in foods because of how cheap it is, and unfortunately has even made it into some of our organic foods. But Palm Oil tends to be produced by razing the rainforest to make way for huge palm plantations. This means that more than likely- the food you are eating with palm oil- partly came from land that once housed thousands of species of animals, and now is only used for monoculture.

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Unfortunately, natural peanut butter is one of my favorite foods that typically has palm oil in it (which Jif has put in it to replace hydrogenated oils, in hopes of appealing to the organic, natural crowd.)

Giving up Jif peanut butter has been one of my biggest sacrifices in terms of eating sustainably (that doesn’t mean that I haven’t made a lot of sacrifices- I just really, really love peanut butter.)

And peanut butter isn’t even the first in the long list of foods that contain palm oil. In fact, it’s not just foods that contain palm oil, either! A lot of shampoos contain Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, an ingredient that cleans the residues that are left on your hair from hairspray and conditioner. Shampoos that do not have sulfates are usually made for color treated hair, because the sulfates strip the hair of it’s natural oils and any dyes that are in it. So, in all honesty, you should probably get rid of those anyway.

The point is- palm oil is hard to avoid period, but especially when you eat pre-packaged foods. It’s in Little Debbie cakes, Odwalla soy milk, Luna Bars, Ritz crazkers and Pringles chips. I’m not saying “never eat a Pringle’s chip again,” (though it might be better for the world if we all did that.)

What I am saying is- being sustainable means being more conscious of the way your actions affect everyone else in the world. We have ourselves so convinced that our lives mean so little, and that we have so little impact- when in fact, it’s the opposite. One Jif peanut butter jar less off the shelves may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but big things get done when a lot of people do a lot of little things like that.

I’ve started to look at it like this: there are some evils in our lives that are hard to give up. My biggest evil is packaged chocolate. No matter what else I give up: bread, imported fruits, jif peanut butter, leather, whatever, I can’t give up a good Reese’s. At least not right now.

So I’ve made a hierarchy, and I suggest you do, too: what impactful and morally questionable products can’t you live without? What order do they come in? Why are they important to you?

They don’t have to be just products, either. Mine are a combination of food, products and experiences.

My first is prepackaged chocolate. My second is hairspray. My third is traveling to music festivals.

Way down my list somewhere was delicious Jif “natural” peanut butter. But I looked at the label and it said Palm Oil. And I had to be aware what buying that Jif peanut butter once a month, every month -probably for the rest of my life- means in terms of impact on the environment and those around me.

And I decided that it was worth it to make the change.

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Tip #8: Bike More

This tip is similar to an earlier tip about planning your travel, but in this case, I suggest changing your travel entirely!

I have a 1997Jeep Cherokee; blue, with a 2 inch lift kit, a massive steel bumper and my NATIVE license plate sticker on the back window. It has a horrible turning radius and the engine roars so anyone can hear me coming from a mile away. The axel is a little off center, so in order to drive straight the wheel is always turned at about a 15 degree angle, and something under the hood leaks a bit, so it smells like antifreeze when the air conditioning is on.

Despite- or perhaps because of- these flaws, I love this car. Iwould keep it forever if I could.

 

But it is a gas guzzler. My beautiful jeep gets about 13 mph on a good day. It is a oil chugging machine. If cars could drink gas, mine would be a heavy weight, upper divison.

Recently, my car decided to stall after every stop light, so I had to retire it temporarily, because I don’t have the time or the money to fix it.

Now, I ride my bike. Everywhere.

 

I won’t lie, this has not been easy. At first, waking up at 5 am to ride my bike 2.5 miles in the dark for a 12 hour day at the J-school was not my idea of fun. And then riding back another 2.5 miles after a long day…well, it’s usually worse than the morning ride.

 

But now that I’ve been doing it for 3 weeks, using my bike has improved a lot of things about my daily routine, in some unexpected ways:

1. I actually have to wake up on time, because the only thing worse than riding to class at 7 am is riding to class late at 7:10.

2. I don’t pay for parking, ever.

3. I actually get to class faster, because I don’t have to sit in traffic or find a spot to park, or walk from my car to class. I can usually ride straight up to my classroom.

4. Of course, I’ve already lost weight.

5. I appreciate travel quite a bit more: I actually have to plan my day and the things I will need, because I’d rather only bike 5 miles instead of 10 because I forgot something at my house.

6. I haven’t bought gas in 3 weeks, so I’ve saved at least $100 (I wasn’t kidding about the gas thing)

7. I’ve reduced my carbon footprint.

 

Hopefully by this point, we all know that fossil fuel emissions contribute to CO2 in the atmosphere, which is a greenhouse gas and causes a changing climate. Riding a bike instead of using a car is one of the most sustainable ways to get around town. I also recently read that college is the time when people create habits that they will follow for the rest of their lives.

 

So, start riding your bike one day a week! Just like anything, it’s tough at first, but after 3 weeks, trust me, it’s worth it.