After living under a rock lo these many years, I just woke up to the fact that the planet is in trouble and it needs ME to save it. I resolve to take that first step up the Sustainability Commitment Ladder, and I decide to do it with beef.

Beef production is particularly harmful to the environment as it requires 160 times more land and produces 11 times more greenhouse gases than vegetables, wheat or rice.

In fact, for every kilogram of beef produced, the equivalent of 36 kilograms of C0₂ is released into the atmosphere.

As if that weren’t bad enough, beef production is responsible for huge amounts of deforestation.

The U.N. Environment Programme stated, “The greenhouse gas footprint of animal agriculture rivals that of every car, truck, bus, ship, airplane, and rocket ship combined. There is no pathway to achieve the Paris climate objectives without a massive decrease in the scale of animal agriculture.”


The only problem with cutting down on beef is the man with whom I share my life, the Meat and Potatoes Guy.

The ideal day for the M&P Guy is salami and eggs for breakfast, a hot dog for lunch, and a hamburger for dinner. If you cut open the M&P Guy’s veins — which I sometimes contemplate when I think about his eating habits — what tumbles out is not red blood but Oscar Mayer wieners.

Given this reality, I knew we weren’t going to go whole hog (you should pardon the expression) anytime soon with a plant-based diet featuring kale and Brussel sprouts. Stealth was going to be required.

Toward that end, I do some reconnaissance at Whole Foods on Upper State Street in Santa Barbara, where I am stunned by the array of meat look-alikes, including the Impossible Burger, Beyond Burger, No Evil Foods chorizo, Lightlife Smart Bacon, Abbot’s Butcher pea protein, plant-based pepperoni and veggie bologna.

I figured soy products were a bridge too far for you-know-who, so I skip those choices.

Upon return I smuggle my selections into the house under cover of night and hide them in the back of the outside fridge. Then I plan a meat loaf consisting of one part ersatz meat to three parts ground beef. I serve the meatloaf with a side of green beans.

“Those are green!” the M&P Guy said accusingly, eyeing the side du jour.

“Hence the name ‘green beans.’”

“You know I don’t do greens.”

“Your mother served green beans from a can when you were a lad, so you know you won’t die if you eat them now.”

“But you always serve noodles with meatloaf,” he says in a last-gasp attempt to return to the tried-and-true.

“We’re going where no man has gone before.”

After a dramatic sigh, the M&P Guy starts to dig in.

I observe him surreptitiously from under my eyebrows to gauge his reaction to the meatloaf. He doesn’t say a word, so I feel I’m home free.

With a self-satisfied smile, I turn to my non-GMO, wild caught, responsibly harvested piece of salmon. Yes! I have made it up the first rung of the Sustainability Commitment Ladder!

Now it’s on to meatloaf that’s half beef and half — something else …

— Santa Barbara author Barbara Greenleaf has just started ECO Team so she’ll have company in her crusade to save the planet one paper bag at a time. For information, please email her at Click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Barbara Greenleaf

Barbara Greenleaf

Santa Barbara author Barbara Greenleaf’s new book, Adventures in ECO Land: My Humorous Take on Going Green, is available at Chaucer’s Books, Tecolote Book Shop and Amazon. She can be contacted at The opinions expressed are her own.