Are you concerned about climate change, but feel helpless about what you can do about it? Something we can all do which is meaningful, easy and will also save money: Eat less meat—specifically, beef.

The meat problem has two parts: the way we are using our land and the methane emissions from cattle.

First, the U.N. report authored by more than 100 scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that emissions from land use—agriculture and logging—cause nearly a quarter of human-induced greenhouse gases. Practices like deforestation, soil degradation and destruction of land-based ecosystems are part of the problem. Farmers are converting more forests into agricultural land, leading to a release of carbon stored in trees. Meat production, which requires other food products for feed, has been especially damaging.

Second, pound for pound, methane has 25 times the environmental impact of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. Because they are ruminants, they burp and fart, and cattle, sheep and goats emitted 170 million metric tons of methane in 2016 in the U.S. Two million head of cattle are slaughtered every month in the U.S. and more are imported.

A global shift from meat- to plant-based diets could cut as much as 8 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases per year.

Not ready to give up meat yet? Just cutting our consumption of beef can have a big impact. One meatless day per week can save the greenhouse gas equivalent of driving 1,160 miles. Think about it, and take Michael Pollan’s advice: Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.

Sue Petersen, Hailey

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