Thank you all so much for helping our little family raise money for Polar Bears International and NRDC.org for maternal den studies, body condition, environmental impact, for education and to aid policy-makers in protecting the iconic Polar Bears. We enjoyed making the Jingle Bells video and I will keep donating money to both eco-charities with each download purchased from iTunes every Christmas!
The list of great causes to support is a long one, indeed and I know it can feel overwhelming at times. I found some information I think may be of value to you thanks to HowStuffWorks.com and other resources mentioned below. I know this is a long blog but please try to get through it! Reading it gave me HOPE because I realized that I can do just a few simple things every day and be part of the solution! What a great way to kick off the New Year!
Our polar bear friends (and Momma Earth) need our continued support because global temperatures are running far above last year’s record-setting level, all but guaranteeing that 2015 will be the hottest year in the historical record — and undermining political claims that global warming had somehow stopped. [NYtimes.com]
Agriculture is responsible for an estimated 14 percent of the world's greenhouse gases. A significant portion of these emissions come from methane, which, in terms of its contribution to global warming is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The U.S. Food and Agriculture Organization says that agricultural methane output could increase by 60 percent by 2030 [Source: NYtimes.com]. The world's 1.5 billion cows and billions of other grazing animals emit dozens of polluting gases, including lots of methane. Two-thirds of all ammonia comes from cows. Cows emit a massive amount of methane through belching, with a lesser amount through flatulence. Some experts say 26 to about 53 gallons, while others say 132 gallons a day. In any case, that's a lot of methane, an amount comparable to the pollution produced by a car in a day.
With the development of large-scale agriculture in the mid-20th century, farming became a big business. Farms consolidated into large enterprises with many thousands of animals across large acreages. Initially, grazing areas were filled with a variety of grasses and flowers that grew naturally, offering a diverse diet for cows and other ruminants. In order to improve the efficiency of feeding livestock, many of these pastures became reseeded with perennial ryegrass which grows quickly and in huge quantities with the aid of artificial fertilizers. The downside is that it lacks the nutritious content of other grasses and prevents more nutritious plants from growing since it’s the “fast food” of grasses. This simple diet allows many cows to be fed, but it inhibits digestion and results in a significant number of weak and infertile cows, which have to be killed at a young age. The difficult-to-digest grass ferments in the cows' stomachs, where it interacts with microbes and produces methane gas.
The Greenhouse Effect
When the sun's rays hit the Earth's atmosphere and the surface of the Earth, approximately 70 percent of the energy stays on the planet, absorbed by land, oceans, plants and other things. The other 30 percent is reflected into space by clouds, snow fields and other reflective surfaces [Source: NASA]. The Earth's oceans and land masses eventually radiate heat back out. The heat that doesn't make it out through Earth's atmosphere keeps the planet warmer than it is in outer space, because more energy is coming in through the atmosphere than is going out. This is all part of the greenhouse effect that keeps the Earth warm.
The greenhouse effect happens because of certain naturally occurring substances in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been pouring huge amounts of those substances into the air.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a colorless gas that is a by-product of the combustion of organic matter. Today, human activities are pumping huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, resulting in an overall increase in carbon dioxide concentrations which are considered the primary factor in global warming because CO2 absorbs infrared radiation. Most of the energy that escapes Earth's atmosphere comes in this form, so extra CO2 means more energy absorption and an overall increase in the planet's temperature.
Nitrous oxide (N2O) is another important greenhouse gas. Although the amounts being released by human activities are not as great as the amounts of CO2, nitrous oxide absorbs much more energy than CO2 (about 270 times as much).
Methane is a combustible gas (occuring through the decomposition of organic material), and it is the main component of natural gas. Man-made processes produce methane in several ways:
By extracting it from coal
From large herds of livestock (i.e., digestive gases)
From the bacteria in rice paddies
Decomposition of garbage in landfills
Methane acts much like carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, absorbing infrared energy and keeping heat energy on Earth. While there isn't as much methane as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, methane can absorb and emit twenty times more heat than CO2.
Glaciers and ice shelves around the world are melting [Source: Guardian Unlimited]. The loss of large areas of ice on the surface could accelerate global warming because less of the sun's energy would be reflected away from Earth to begin with. An immediate result of melting glaciers would be a rise in sea levels. If the West Antarctic Ice Sheet were to melt and collapse into the sea, it would push sea levels up 10 meters (more than 32 feet), and many coastal areas would completely disappear beneath the ocean [Source: NASA]. With a rise in the overall temperature of the ocean, ocean-borne storms such as tropical storms and hurricanes, which get their fierce and destructive energy from the warm waters they pass over, could increase in force.
We Can Stop It!
Though scientists warn that global warming will likely continue for centuries because of the long natural processes involved, there are a few things we can do to decrease the effects. Basically, they all boil down to this: Don't use as much of the stuff that creates greenhouse gases. On a local level, you can help by using less energy. The electricity that operates many of the devices in our homes comes from a power plant and most power plants burn fossil fuels to generate that power. Turn off lights when they're not in use. Take shorter showers to use less hot water. Use a fan instead of your air-conditioner on a warm day.
Here are some other specific ways you can help decrease greenhouse-gas emissions:
Make sure your car is properly tuned up. This allows it to run more efficiently and generate fewer harmful gases.
Walk or ride your bike if possible, or carpool on your way to work. Cars burn fossil fuel, so smaller, more fuel-efficient cars emit less CO2, particularly hybrid cars.
Turn lights and other appliances off when you're not using them. Even though a lightbulb doesn't generate greenhouse gas, the power plant that generates the electricity used by the light bulb probably does. Switch from incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent bulbs, which use less energy and last longer.
Recycle. Garbage that doesn't get recycled ends up in a landfill generating methane. Recycled goods also require less energy to produce than products made from scratch.
Plant trees and other plants where you can. Plants take carbon dioxide out of the air and release oxygen.
Don't burn garbage. This releases carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons into the atmosphere.
Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity which will also save you money on healthcare. And going meatless once a week can cut your weekly budget since meat is expensive but it will also help reduce our carbon footprint and save precious resources like fossil fuels and fresh water.
Regarding the Environment, Meatless Mondays will:
Minimize Water Usage—The water needs of livestock are much greater than those of vegetables and grains.
– Approximately 1,850 gallons of water are needed to produce a single pound of beef.
– Approximately 39 gallons of water are needed to produce a pound of vegetables.
Americans consume nearly four times the amount of animal protein than the global average. When compared with current food intake in the US, a vegetarian diet could reduce water consumption by up to 58% per person.
Reduce Greenhouse Gases —Studies show that meat production produces significantly more greenhouse gases than vegetables, including carbon dioxide, Methane and Nitrous Oxide – the three main contributing sources of greenhouse gas. Beef was found to produce a total of 30 kg of greenhouse gas (GHG) per kg of food, while carrots, potatoes and rice produce .42, .45 and 1.3 kg GHG per kg of food, respectively.
Reduce Fuel Dependence—About 25 kilocalories of fossil fuel energy is used to produce 1 kilocalorie of all meat based protein, as compared with 2.2 kilocalories of fossil fuel input per 1 kilocalorie of grain based protein produced. The meat industry uses so much energy to produce grain for livestock that if instead we used the grain to feed people following a vegetarian diet, it would be enough to feed about 840 million people. (MeatlessMonday.com)
I am not one to proselytize that a plant-based life is for everyone. I grew up in Alaska where many families still hunt their dinner so to each, his own. I do believe one day per week of going meatless can help the environment and your overall health so I’d like to share one of our favorite breakfast recipes with you.
Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins
1/2 C cooked yam (about 1 large yam peeled)
1 C Pineapple Juice (I use Lakewood Non-GMO Organic Pineapple Juice with no added sugar)*
4 C Oat Flour (True Sprouted Flour www.HealthyFlour.com or Bob’s Red Mill GF Non-GMO Oats which you can grind to make flour in your food processor)*
2 tsp baking soda (Bob’s Red Mill)*
1 tsp baking powder (Bob’s Red Mill www.bobsredmill.com)*
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 C shredded zucchini
1/4 C dark chocolate chips (Enjoy Life www.enjoylife.com GF, vegan dark chocolate mini chocolate chips)*
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl mix the yam and juice until well blended.
In a separate bowl, mix the oats, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Slowly stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Add the zucchini and mini chocolate chips. Stir well. Batter should be thick but add a splash of pineapple juice if mixture seems too dry.
Fill two muffin tins with chlorine free parchment cupcake liners. Lightly spray liners with organic coconut oil (Spectrum Brand)*
Use ice cream scoop to distribute batter into parchment cupcake cups. Bake for 40 minutes. They will look more like a scone than a muffin. Remove from tins onto a wire rack to cool before storing in refrigerator or serve hot with a drizzle of pure maple syrup, a dollop of vegan coconut yogurt (So Delicious brand)* and a dash of cinnamon.
Wishing you a Happy & Healthy 2016! Enjoy!!!! LoFi Love & Gratitude--Kelly
This recipe contains 14.2 grams of Protein, 1.9 gm of Linoleum Acid, 14.6 gm Fiber, 96 mg Calcium, 350 mg Sodium, 4.8 mg Iron 224 mg B-Carotene, 21 mg Vitamin C, 2.0 mg Vitamin E, .022 mg Selenium, 3.3 mg Zinc. Adapted from a recipe in The Health Promoting Cookbook by Alan Goldhamer, D. C.
* I do not receive promotional funds from any products listed. I am recommending these items because our family enjoys them.
I recommend using organic ingredients including all spices. Make sure spices are not laced with sugar.