On the first of January, I turned over a new, er, leaf.
I left behind my days of buffalo chicken wraps and bacon-covered bacon for a life of vegetarianism. And I stumbled upon the Vegetarian Calculator — this handy tool that calculates the actual, tangible impact that I’ve made by going meat-free, using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Maybe it’s only been a few weeks, but I’ve supposedly already saved the lives of 16 adorable animals and prevented the release of 126 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Everyone’s been asking me why I made the switch. And I wish I could say it was for the environment. I wish I could even say it was for the animals. But it was for me. I wanted to improve my health, get in better shape, and — I’ll say it — I gave into the fad. Food fads are everywhere right now, from gluten-free this to juice-cleanse that.
But what do they all mean, for us and the rest of the world?
I’m not alone in giving into this one. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, frequently referred to by media as “America’s fittest mayor,” recently appeared on WGN Morning News to encourage Chicago’s residents to join him as a vegan to improve their health and life expectancy. I haven’t gone that far, and can’t say that I ever will. But it goes to show that this diet may have staying power. I already love immersing myself in so many, dare I say, better foods. (Team falafel!) But I decided to educate myself on the benefits I am bringing to my environment, near and far.
I learned that veg-heads use less water, food and oil, and contribute less carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Oh, and animal agriculture accounts for 18 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2006 UN study. And according to the Vegetarian Calculator each American’s diet causes the deaths of four animals per week, on average. No, thank you — this looks like one resolution I’ll be keeping. (But wish me luck! I do really like chicken.)