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Essential Vegetarian

What’s Your Ecological Footprint?

By Katharyn Jeffreys

Staff Writer

I am currently taking an environmental policy class in which we discussed ecological footprints. This “footprint” is a measure of each individual’s impact on the environment and sustainability by estimating the total resources used. This includes the footprint on such realms as transportation, utilities, and of course food.

The footprint is measured in acres, based on the number of acres of land required to produce all that goes into bringing the conveniences of transportation, food, and utilities to people. This includes not only the land that the food is grown on, but the resources required to transport, process, and package the goods.

All else equal, a vegetarian requires 1.4 acres more than a vegan. Someone who eats one meal with animal products a day or a vegetarian diet with many ovo-lacto products requires an additional acre and a half. Eating more meals with meat, or having meals consisting primarily of meat increases the acreage necessary to more than 7 acres above that of a vegan.

To put this in perspective, the average American ecological footprint is about 30 acres. However, the biologically productive space available worldwide is 5.4 acres per person. (This is the number of acres available divided by the population). Americans, of course, have much larger ecological footprints than other countries. As it stands today, humans already exceed the available acreage, meaning that the earth cannot be sustained if people continue to consume at the same rate they do today.

This deficit between land available and land necessary also shows which countries can sustain themselves and which rely heavily on imports. The United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and Kuwait all have larger deficits that of the United States, but these three countries also have populations of less than five million people.

Countries such as the Central African Republic, Congo Republic, Papua New Guinea, and Gabon all produce more than they consume and make up some of the deficit

The difference comes from the fact that, to produce a pound of meat, an animal must consume tens of times that weight in grain. Therefore, the land on which the grain is grown is counted in the footprint. This grain must also be shipped and the meat processed, which adds to the footprint.

This clearly indicates that reducing one’s use of natural resources and animal products can contribute to the earth’s sustainability. I have always argued, as have many vegetarians, that eating meat is ecologically unsound. Abstaining from animal products, carpooling, and using energy saving appliances are all ways to reduce your ecological footprint.

To learn more about this unique way to determine your impact on the earth and to calculate your own ecological footprint, visit <>.

I haven’t eaten anywhere interesting lately, and am getting quite bored of my usual dishes. If you can recommend any restaurants or recipes, I would love to take your suggestions, and will incorporate them into future columns.

Super Easy Lentils and Spinach

1 lb (2 1/4 cups) green lentils

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, can be thawed

salt and black pepper to taste

2 tbsp olive oil

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil with black pepper. When the onion is clear and becoming slightly golden, add the lentils with enough water to cover plus one inch. Bring to a boil and then turn down heat to simmer. Check the lentils after 30 minutes to ensure that there is sufficient water. After 40 minutes (or 45 if the spinach is thawed), add the spinach. Ten minutes later, stir the spinach thoroughly and then cook 10 minutes more for a total of 60 or 65 minutes.

Serve over brown rice. It may need a bit of salt. Serves four. Preparation time: 75 minutes.