As I noted in my "Greenwashed" commentary [July 1], eating a vegetarian diet one day per week reduces greenhouse gasses more than eating an all-local diet every day [of the week]. Some characterized my comments as an attack on local food. Not so: We should go out of our way to support local businesses. But we need to make decisions based on science and common sense, not emotion.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, "If every American had one meat-free meal per week, it would be the same as taking more than 5 million cars off our roads." The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is promoting Meatless Monday (www.meatlessmonday.com), "in order to improve personal health and the health of the planet."
If cutting out meat for one meal, one day per week provides significant environmental benefits, think about the astounding changes we'd see if everyone dramatically reduced or eliminated meat consumption. Yet some local producers and merchants promote gluttonous pig roasts and barbecues. In their quest for profits, they send the false and destructive message that you can eat all of the meat you want, as long as it's produced locally. Heck, even Progress Energy tells us to conserve electricity.
Dr. James E. McWilliams' new book, Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, provides an in-depth look at why it's a mistake to focus on transportation and ignore other factors such as economies of scale and the massive amounts of energy used in producing certain foods. Dr. McWilliams notes: "If you want to make a statement, ride your bike to the farmer's market. If you want to reduce greenhouse gases, become a vegetarian."
— Stewart David