On this episode of the Green Ninja Show, Dr. Burrito does a house call and visits a couple different burrito farms. He does this so he can analyze the air at each farm to see what kind of greenhouse gases are being produced and how much. There are 3 gases that burrito farms can produce that cause our atmosphere to get a little gassy: Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), and Nitrous Oxide (N2O).
The first, and most widely recognized gas, is Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Most people have heard that humans breathe out Carbon Dioxide but it also gets released into the air as a byproduct of burning fossil fuels. This means that at burrito farms, whenever they burn up gasoline in tractors to prepare the soil or in trucks and planes in order to transport the burritos (or ingredients) from one place to another, they release huge amounts of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere! Driving a gas-powered vehicle releases far more CO2 into the air than breathing; in fact, humans release far too much of this stuff for the Earth to handle. There are a few natural ways the Earth reduces the amount of Carbon Dioxide in the air, the main way is plants. Most plants take in CO2 and convert it to Oxygen. The problem is that plants (just like people) can only breathe so much air at one time and humans are producing far more Carbon Dioxide annually than all of Earth’s plants can breathe in each year.
The next gas the good Doctor talks about was Methane (CH4)! Methane is known for a couple of reasons, one being that it is highly combustible and another being that Methane is the gas most mammals produce when they “cut the cheese”. But that is not all methane is for! Humans harvest methane from pockets in the Earth’s crust and use it to produce Natural Gas. The process of producing, processing, storing, transporting, and distributing Natural Gas releases more Methane into the air at each step! Methane is also released by the decomposition of organic material in landfills and at waste-water treatment plants. All of these things add up to release TONS of methane into the air. Even though less Methane gets into the atmosphere than CO2 (about 1/10 as much), Methane is still a very serious problem because it affects climate change over 20 times more than CO2 does!
The final gas measured by the legendary Doctor Burrito is Nitrous Oxide (N2O). Out of all of the greenhouse gases released by humans annually, Nitrous Oxide only makes up about 6% of the total gas released. Just because this is a relatively small amount released does not mean that N2O can be ignored, it is on Doctor Burrito’s watch list because it is so extremely dangerous! N2O molecules, once released, stay in the atmosphere for an average of 120 years AND one pound of Nitrous Oxide is more than 300 times more harmful to the Earth’s climate than a pound of Carbon Dioxide! Woah! You may be wondering “Where does this gas come from?” Well, the majority comes from the use of hazardous chemicals in agricultural areas, such as when some farmers use industrial-strength pesticides on their crops.
Now that we have identified what Doctor Burrito is looking out for and why, let’s talk about how we can help reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that get into the atmosphere. The easiest way to remember would be the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle! We need to do all of these things to reduce greenhouse gas production, but not in the normal way.
We can keep these gases out of the atmosphere by not supporting their production. By buying a beef burrito from that gassy farm the Doctor visited, you would be supporting that farm, helping them keep running. This is where Reduce comes in: by reducing the amount of “high-gas” products we consume (products that require the release of a high amount of greenhouse gases in order to create), we make sure that fewer “high-gas” products need to be made.
Next is Reuse: by reusing disposable materials, we don’t need as much of it. A good example is water bottles. If we always buy water bottles, the bottle company will always make more (producing more gas) but if we reuse water bottles or use a reusable bottle, the bottle company doesn’t need to make as many bottles (so less greenhouse gases are released).
The last part is Recycle: this is specifically for organic matter. You can’t put things like rotten apples and banana peels in the regular recycling bin, so most people simply throw them in the trash. The issue is that when organic matter (like food or plant matter) ends up in the landfill, it decomposes and releases Methane. By composting instead of sending it to the landfill, you lower Methane production because a properly maintained compost bin only creates a small amount of Carbon Dioxide, not Methane.
Greenhouse gases are serious business! So make sure to keep an eye out for the things we talked about today. Doctor Burrito needs your help to reduce the greenhouse gases being released into our atmosphere. If you are interested in learning more about each of these gases, or if you want to find more strategies to help reduce greenhouse gas production, head on over to this Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) article and you can navigate to each individual gas with the tabs at the top. Keep up the great work, Green Ninjas!
Director: David Chai
Producer: Revathi Kotni
Editor: Keith Silva
Camera Crew: Eric Anderson & Mark Sho
Host: Alejandro Garcia
Cast: Amit Kumar & Eugene Cordero