If everyone on the planet cut meat and dairy out of their diet, their carbon footprint would reduce by 73%. Vegan diets, and plant based diets are the foundation for the overall health and sustainability on our planet.
A plant based diet is the most sustainable diet for planet earth, however, it may not be ideal for everyone.
Humans are natural born omnivores, meaning they are able to thrive off of both meat and plants, but how would the earth be impacted by plant based and vegan diets?
Agriculture and farming use up many of the planet’s natural resources. Forests are cut down as land is prepared to be used for agriculture, which uses 70% of the earth’s freshwater. Farm animals contaminate nearby water sources with their waste, and are fed off of grains and plants that go straight to their bones, wasting those resources as well.
Plant based diets are far more sustainable than meat based diets, and are even healthier for the individual. Beef has the largest impact on the environment, with cheese and fish falling closely behind. The energy and natural resources that farms use in order to produce food for those who consume a meat based diet, has a great impact on the earth.
Water consumption holds the largest impact, with animal agriculture responsible for 70% of freshwater use. Research has found that when looking at fossil fuels, 1 calorie from beef needs 40 calories of fuel, and 1 calorie from grains needs 2.2 calories of fossil fuels. Greenhouse gas emissions would significantly decrease from a plant based diet alone, if everyone was able to reduce their animal product intake. Additionally, the upkeep of farms and animals is polluting the earth.
Industrial sized cattle farms and dairy farms often treat their animals very poorly. Farmers overfeed their animals in order to make a larger profit off the meat or bi-products of the animal. The larger the animal, the more money it is worth. Many animals live in terrible conditions, and are treated poorly, only to be killed. Overfeeding animals impacts the environment by using more natural resources than necessary, which then takes those resources away from those who will actually benefit from them.
Beef production uses a larger amount of resources than plant based foods, and red meat holds the largest impact in the cattle industry. Researchers compared beef production with three staple plant based foods: rice, beans and potatoes. They found that each kilogram (kg) of beef requires 163 times more land use, 18 times more water use, 19 times more nitrogen use, and 11 times more co2 than 1kg of rice, beans, and potatoes.
Knowing that agriculture takes up most of the earth’s freshwater, what would it look like if meat consumers stepped away from animal products by just 50%? Though the idea of going vegan seems like a lot, small steps can bring our planet to greatness, and small changes can leave a big impact on planet earth.