In my search to find a way to lessen my impact on the environment, I chose six months ago to follow a vegan diet and swear off all of the animal products that are staples in a western diet (eggs, cheese, milk, meat, etc.). Even before making the official switch, I had been interested in veganism for months and I had been researching both its benefits and its drawbacks endlessly. At first, I was concerned solely with the health benefits of being a vegan but the more I researched the more I learned about the environmental benefits veganism holds and accordingly the more concerned with those benefits I became. Eventually, I decided to go vegan based not on my initial concern of health but instead primarily on my concern for the health of the environment! As our Western society has moved forward and progressed over the last half of a century, our taste for meat, eggs, and dairy has grown substantially. Meat production has quadrupled since the 1960’s and is expected to have doubled again by 2050, a trend that will continue to have a severely detrimental effect on the environment as the planet will not be able to sustain both increasing human and farmed animal population. If we are trying to lessen our individual impact on the environment, what we eat is a factor worth taking a real look at.
Chickens, turkeys and pigs are the earth’s largest producer of methane, a gas which is 20 X more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Collectively, the meat, egg and dairy industries produce 65% of the earth’s nitrous oxide, a gas which is 300 X more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. The production and consumption of animal products is seriously harming our planet.
The diet of meat eater will create 7 X the amount of carbon dioxide emissions as the diet of a vegan. If a single meat-eater chooses to switch to a vegan diet, they will reduce their individual carbon emissions by 1.5 tonnes per year. Veganism does not only save on carbon emissions, though. In addition to saving 1.5 tonnes of carbon emissions per year, a meat-eater turned vegan will go from requiring 4000 gallons of water a day to produce the food they eat to only requiring 300 gallons a day. These are substantial reductions in an individual’s impact on the environment, achieved only through making a change in what they choose to eat.
The next time you think about how you can lessen your impact on the environment, take the time to think about what you are eating and the possible impact that it is having. It is not by any means necessary to go 100% vegan if that sounds absurd to you. Even if you make the switch to eating vegan one day out of the week, it will still have a substantial positive impact on the environment. Every time you eat a vegan meal over a non-vegan meal you are lessening your negative impact on the environment.