You’ve probably heard the phrase “go green” when it comes to environmentally-friendly practices, but what should be said is, “go vegan!” That’s because a vegan diet isn’t just good for your own health, but it’s also good for the health of the planet. According to a 2018 study conducted by the University of Oxford, going vegan is, “the single best way” to reduce your impact on the environment. Read on to learn more about why a vegan diet is better for the planet!
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Vegan Diets Reduce the Impact of Climate Change
Climate change is a hot topic in current times, and for a good reason. If we don’t start making changes now, the results could be catastrophic. While many people are switching to electric cars or solar powered energy, swapping what you put on your plate is a better way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Research from the American Association for the Advancement of Science shows that cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce your carbon footprint by up to 73% from food. Even one vegan meal a day makes a difference. Suzy Amis Cameron, author of “One Meal a Day: The Simple, Plant-Based Program to Save Your Health, Save Your Waistline, and Save the Planet,” writes, “by switching one meat- or dairy-based meal a day, we can slash our personal water and carbon footprint by about 25 percent.”
Not convinced? Let’s take a closer look at how animal agriculture fuels climate change:
Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere. While these gases let sunlight pass through the atmosphere, they prevent the heat that the sunlight creates from escaping. Greenhouse gases are necessary because without them, the planet would be too cold and life would cease to exist. However, certain human activities are adding large quantities of these gases to the atmosphere, and as a result, are causing the Earth’s temperature to rise at an alarming rate.
According to a 2019 report published in The Lancet, food production is responsible for up to 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions. The biggest contributor is animal products, which accounts for about three-quarters of the greenhouse effects. Here are just a few ways food production, especially practices from the meat and dairy industries, impact the environment through the creation of greenhouse gases:
- Methane. Livestock production contributes to a large amount of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The biggest offender? Cows, which contribute to over 60% of the sector’s emissions, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. More specifically, cows release methane—a greenhouse gas that’s nearly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide—through their manure and “eruptions,” aka natural gases.
- Carbon Dioxide. Trees capture greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, and prevent them from accumulating in the Earth’s atmosphere. When trees are cut down to make way for agriculture production, they release stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These trees are then usually burned or left to rot, which releases even more emissions. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, cattle ranching is responsible for up to 80% of deforestation and the release of 340 million tons of carbon to the atmosphere every year.
- Nitrous Oxide. It’s not just the animals that create greenhouse gases either. Nitrogen fertilizer, which is used to grow food for the livestock, produces nitrous oxide. This type of greenhouse gas causes nearly 300 times more warming than CO2 and depletes the ozone layer.
Remember that 2019 report from The Lancet? It also found that “vegan and vegetarian diets were associated with the greatest reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.” A similar journal titled Climate Change concluded that if every American switched from beef to beans, the United States could achieve 46-74% of the greenhouse gas reduction targets set in the Paris Agreement.
Vegan Foods Require Less Water
Not many people are aware of how much water it takes to produce their food. In general, plant-based foods require less water than animal foods. For example, a 2015 New York Times article states that it takes nearly 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, 880 gallons for a single gallon of dairy milk, and 53 gallons for a single egg. To put that in perspective, it takes 486 gallons of water to produce one pound of beans and lentils and 84 gallons of water to produce almond milk.
Vegan Diets Reduce Water Pollution
Factory farms produce a large amount of waste and pollution in the form of manure, pesticides, fuel, and fertilizer. This waste often ends up entering rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water, as well as drinking and groundwater, through runoff.
Animal manure contains phosphorus and nitrogen, and once it gets into freshwater, it causes algae to grow. These algae “blooms” cut off the oxygen supply to underwater plants, a condition known as eutrophication, and leads to massive die-offs of marine life.
And then there’s fishing. The biggest source of plastic pollution in the oceans come from commercial fishing with an estimated 640,000 tons of fishing gear discarded every year, according to The Guardian. The results are deadly, killing hundreds of turtles and suffocating birds, small fish, and crustaceans.
Vegan Diets Require Less Land
Compared to fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy production requires a lot of land. Out of all of the habitable land on Earth, half (or 51 million kilometers) is used for agriculture, according to an article published by One Green Planet. And of the 51 million kilometers, 77% or 40 million kilometers is used for livestock. The remaining 23% is used for crops (minus the feed required to feed the livestock).
If everyone stopped eating meat and dairy, a University of Oxford study found that global farmland use could be reduced by 75%, which is an area equivalent to the size of the US, China, Australia, and the EU combined!
Visit Beyond Sushi in NYC
Now that you know why a vegan diet is better for the planet, visit us at Beyond Sushi in NYC! We’re best known for our innovative, plant-based offerings and globally-inspired menu that will leave a lasting impact on both your palette and the planet. Dine-in with us or order takeout or delivery today!