How much would you sacrifice to reduce your carbon footprint? A landmark study from Cornell University found that it takes 13 units of fossil fuel to produce 1 unit of turkey protein; but for chicken, the fuel to protein ratio is only 4:1. What price holiday tradition?
So what exactly is the impact of our Thanksgiving tradition on greenhouse gas emissions? According to the National Turkey Federation, 88 percent of Americans will eat turkey this Thursday, which translates into around 264 million people. By conservative estimate, each diner will gobble down 400 calories worth of turkey alone (forget the gravy and stuffing).
For the number-crunching we turn to journalist Brendan Koerner, author of The Greenest Bird (Slate).
“There are approximately 1.5 million kilocalories in a barrel of oil. A quick calculation reveals, then, that filling America's collective gullet with turkey on Thanksgiving requires 915,200 barrels of oil. Satiating our poultry jones with chicken, by contrast, would consume only around 281,600 barrels of oil. Net savings: 633,600 barrels of crude, which translates into roughly 12,355,200 gallons of gas. Since a gallon of gas produces 19.564 pounds of carbon dioxide—yes, really—then we'd reduce Thanksgving's CO2 output by about 109,641 metric tons.”
Over 100,000 metric tons of CO2! Huge, right? Well, not really. That amounts to only about one-thousandth of 1 percent of our country’s annual GHG emissions.
So here’s our advice: This Thursday, eat turkey responsibly. Which means eat as much as you damn well please. Hell, it’s Thanksgiving.
But on the following Monday, November 30th, get your well-fed butt over to the Air District and help us make the case for numeric emission caps on our 5 local refineries. A reduction of only three-quarters of 1 percent of their total GHG emissions (14,655,000 metric tons, per the California Air Resources Board) would zero-out the turkey vs. chicken hit on our atmosphere nationwide!
Think of it as a fight for the Bay Area's own turkey offset program.
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Sunflower Alliance. But that bunch includes several vegetarians and their opinions on the matter don't count anyway.
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