Any restaurant, caterer, CSA, farm, wholesaler, manufacturer or distributor of food that works in the sustainability arena can benefit from the use of simple statistics that their customers and the public can easily wrap their brains around. It’s a simple fact–people are busy, and we live in a sound bite culture. So if you can break down your eco-credentials in bite-sized chunks, customers are more likely to remember you.
The following statistics will particularly benefit organic and vegetarian-based businesses, but also small family farms, CSA, and farmer’s markets over factory farms.
I offer you, from David Suzuki’s Green Guide, part 2 of my series of eco-stats from the book review of this comprehensive book.
Eco-stats on food, in no particular order:
- Eating local, vegetarian, and organic can reduce the ecological footprint of our diet by 90%.
- A 2006 study found that children who switched to organics quickly stopped having detectable levels of pesticides in their urine.
- The first CSA (community supported agriculture) appeared in North America in 1985. There are now more than 1,000.
- Similarly, the number of farmer’s markets in the US doubled between 1994 and 2004.
- A Chicago study found that food in a supermarket traveled an average 1,500 miles to get to the store. By contrast, food at a local farmer’s market travels an average of 73 miles.
- Cows, pigs, and chickens produce 5 tons of manure per person in North America per year.
- As a consequence of the above, the EPA estimates agriculture is responsible for 70% of the water pollution in the U.S., much of it from concentrated animal feedlots (CAFO’s).
- Beef requires up to 70,000 liters of water per kilogram of beef produced. Chicken requres up to 6,000 L per kilo produced.
- A person can reduce their CO2 emissions more by switching from a typical North American diet to a vegan one than they could by switching their vehicle from a gas guzzler to a hybrid.
- Animal protein requires ten times more energy and produces ten times more greenhouse gasses than plant protein.
- Red meat requires the use of 6-20x as much land, and 5-25x as much water, and produces 5-17x the water pollution as an equivalent amount of plant protein.
- If all people in the world ate like Americans, Earth could only support 2.5 B people. (There are now 6.5 B, projected to reach 9+ B by mid-century).
- 90% of antibiotics given to livestock are used to make them grow faster, not to treat infections.
- >50% of all antibiotics in North America are fed to livestock, which leads to antibiotic resistant bacteria.
- Present seafood trends will lead to the collapse of all commercial fisheries by 2048 (any business looking to market some sustainable seafood certified by the Marine Stewardship Council might benefit by using this stat)
- 50 years ago, 11% of all corn in America was treated with pesticides. Now that figure is greater than 95%.
- 1/3 of vegetable servings consumed in America consist of French Fries, potato chips, and iceberg lettuce.
Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and has been a vegetarian for environmental reasons for 17 years.