New Online Calculator Lets You See the Impact of Your Meat Intake
By Robin Scher
One of my resolutions this year is to eat less meat. As a lifelong carnivore, this task has already proven to be easier said than done. The major challenge comes down to changing my habits. After years of enjoying bacon with my eggs for breakfast, I now associate its comforting greasy taste with the feeling of fullness. So how do I—and others like me—overcome this obstacle? One big challenge is finding a way to stay motivated.
Enter the Meat Blitz-Calculator.
Major reasons for cutting down on meat have to do with the health, environmental and animal welfare impact of this dietary choice. It may be easy to understand the negative consequences meat-eating has for your heart, the climate or animals on factory farms, but it's another matter when it comes to relating these impacts directly to your own consumption habits. This is where the calculator comes in.
The first question the calculator asks is whether you eat meat. If you answer yes, the calculator displays three predetermined average values for the amount of poultry, pork and beef in ounces you consume in a week. These figures—based on information taken from a USDA database—represent the national average for Americans and can be adjusted accordingly. The calculator then asks you to fill in what percentage of meat you would be willing to replace with vegetarian food in your diet.
This is where things get interesting. Based on further USDA statistics, the calculator displays the direct impact your dietary decision could have over the course of a decade. This information comes in two parts. The first set of figures shows how much water, CO2 and antibiotics would be spared by committing to your change in diet. The calculator also displays an infographic that represents the number of pigs, cows and chickens you would save from the slaughtering block.
What difference can this make to your habits, you may wonder? It comes down to shifting perspectives. Using the averages of the calculator, I committed to a 60 percent reduction over the next decade. By crunching the numbers, the calculator revealed the full impact my dietary decision could have on both my own wellbeing as well as the environment and animals (the latter two often require an imaginative leap that our stomachs—and cognitive dissonance—help us overlook).
Now the next time I'm tempted to eat a burger or a steak, I will be able to picture the cumulative impact of my decision. It's easy enough to dismiss the choices we make on a daily basis, but it becomes a lot harder when you start to consider the difference your decisions alone can make over a long period of time.
In order to do something I don't want to do, I need a good incentive. Ignorance might be bliss, but knowledge is power. Now that I understand the full impact of what I decide to eat for every meal, it has become a lot easier to avoid temptation. This change in behavior may not seem significant at first, but as the calculator helped me to realize, every little bit counts.
Want to eat less meat? Check out four easy tips to reduce your intake.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
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By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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