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Featured Articles and Best Practice Blog

You Skipped the Meat, Now Skip the Milk

By Andrea Little, Marketing Intern

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the Meatless Monday campaign. This Monday, I'm challenging you to take Meatless Mondays once step further - skip the dairy, too.

As of 2000, there were 90,000 dairy farms in the US. The environmental impact of dairy farming is as real and considerable as other areas of agriculture:

  • Pollution and emissions from farm equipment, the energy consumed by machines used to pasteurize and milk cows, and the fuel consumed by vehicles used for transportation
      • 80% of agricultural greenhouse gasses comes from the processing and transportation of food
      • The Wall Street Journal found the carbon footprint of 1 gallon on milk to be between 6.19 and 7.59 pounds of CO2, depending on how it was transported
  • Antibiotics and hormones used on livestock
  • Soil and water contamination
      • Agriculture is the most common pollutant of rivers and streams, according to the EPA.
  • Production of ammonia, nitrous oxide, methane, pathogens, and fine particulates, all of which are harmful to humans and the environment
      • Methane comes from rumination by cows and the breakdown of manure, while nitrous oxide comes from manure and fertilizer
      • 21% of methane comes from ruminants. This is extremely significant, especially when you compare this to 24% from landfills, and 26% from gas and petroleum systems
      • Methane is 21 times more potent than C02 at trapping heat

There have been important advances in farming as organic and sustainable styles become more common (as opposed to intensive farming methods). Many farmers are making the transition to more environmentally friendly pieces of farming equipment. And many consumers, maybe yourself included, have hopped on the local foods movement, which cuts down food's carbon footprint by reducing how far it is has been transported from farm to store (check out for more information on these developments).

Although some farms are becoming greener and more humane, they still leave a considerable carbon footprint on our world. Today, consider eating a dairy alternative, like Tofutti cream cheese (made with tofu), soy milk, ice cream made from rice milk, or cheese made from soy and sesame. Visit Meatless Monday's dairy-free recipe section if you're looking for meal ideas!

Humanity’s Impact on the Groundwater Supply

By Ashley Cole, Chemist

Out of the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago, our Paleolithic ancestors lived a subsistence lifestyle dependent on hunting and gathering. As ice melted and water became an increasingly abundant resource, they began to harness its power. Across Europe, Africa, and Asia, agrarian communities slowly developed the knowledge, technology and infrastructure necessary to plant seeds and harvest crops. While some cultures depended on the rains, others developed irrigation to encourage a successful harvest. The ability to grow, harvest, and store cereals remains the foundation for a stable society.

Stability encouraged health and longevity. As greater numbers survived infancy, greater numbers survived into old age. Populations boomed. Out of agrarianism grew textured societies capable of sustaining hundreds of thousands of people, people fed from crops that had to be watered. Without agriculture, the Industrial Revolution would have never been born and modern societies would not exist.

Our water choices stem from our fundamental human need for clean drinking water. We now also need water for agriculture and farming. Our water needs change as our culture becomes more complex. We no longer live in a subsistence manner, hoping for the rains to fall and the frost to hold. Humanity has fundamentally altered natural hydrologic cycle. At a local grocery store it is possible to purchase strawberries in the middle of winter and squash in the spring. When it comes to our dietary whims, we are no longer restrained by the seasons. We can transport food great distances to bring it to market around the globe. Heavy equipment can drain and fill in wetlands in the blink of a geologic eye, thus clearing the way for agriculture and industry.

In order to support our personal and industrial transportation needs, we have constructed a complex web of asphalt and concrete interchanges. In many of our urban centers the combination of roadways, parking lots and structures has essentially sealed the surface of the earth. With relatively few patches of earth poking through, rainwater either pools on the surface or flows into municipal storm water systems. Because of this, many of the aquifers we depend upon for our water needs are no longer being recharged at a rate that they may be reliably depended upon in the future.

Most people don't think twice about what happens to the rain after it falls, but according to the EPA over half of the precipitation that falls on an average city block will leave as runoff. This can easily translate into hundreds of thousands of gallons from a significant rain event. The flow of storm water is often referred to as the first flush. It is the first half inch of rainfall that flows across the landscape and carries with it 99 percent of the pollutant load. In part, this is what the EPA has termed as Non Point Source water pollution. For this reason, the first flush is now noted as the most important stormwater to capture.

But how to capture it? And once it is diverted away from traditional storm water infrastructure, how can it be used to replenish the groundwater supply? The answer may not be quite as complicated as you think. 

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