The interest and adoption of a vegan diet is a trending topic in diet electives right now. More and more evidence is being revealed for the health benefits of a plant based diet, there is a growing selection of alternative meat and dairy products, and there are increased number of studies for external benefits of a vegan diet. The personal health effects of diet choices can be highly subjective. Each individual has a diet that works best for them and can be highly personalized. Yet, all diets are not created equal in their influences on the environment. A vegan diet is the best diet for the least impact on the environment. With numerous studies to support this claim, one of the most prevalent impacts of a vegan diets is a reduced carbon footprint taking the form of the conservation of many resources that go in to the production of plant based nutrients. Although this is a highly debated subject, the science and studies are there. Data from a recent study reveals that, “…a country eating vegetarian for one day, we would save 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supple all the homes in New England for almost four months…”.
If the amazing personal health benefits haven’t convinced you of the impact of a vegan lifestyle, here are some environmental impacts of adopting veganism. Let’s take care of our environment.
1. Preservation of Fresh Water
The production of animals as a food source is costly for many reasons. One of which is the massive use of water in the production of animals. Around half of the water consumed in the United States is put towards raising animals for consumption. Additionally, for every one pound of meat produced it takes 2,400 gallons of water. Compare this with the production of wheat. For every one pound of wheat produced, it takes only 25 gallons of water. With droughts plaguing our own communities, the preservation of fresh drinking water is an important issue. A vegan lifestyle aids this cause of the preservation of natural resources.
2. Preserves Fresh Air
Many are engaged in the reduction of their carbon foot print. Be that from opting to bike to work instead of drive, respecting the burn code, or opting for driving a hybrid or electric vehicle. All of these actions are certainly helpful and useful in lowering carbon emissions, but animal production and consumption are the largest sources of culprits in global warming. The production of animal products results in three major gasses being produced that are incredibly harmful to the planet: carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. All of these gasses could be significantly reduced with the adoption of a plant based lifestyle.
3. Energy Conservation
The production of animal products takes a lot of energy! Over a third of fossil fuels produced in the US go towards animal agriculture. Just one calorie from an animal based source utilizes eleven times the fossil fuel as one calorie of plant protein. When thinking about the entire process of meat production, the energy needs are quite impressive. Grains, soy, and other crops must be cultivated to fee the animal. This grain is then moved to feedlots. The animals feed until slaughter and the carcasses are moved to processing, and eventually you see what is in the grocery store. This whole production line has energy needs that are harmful and impactful to the environment. When examining this against the energy requirements of a plant based lifestyle, the vegan diet is far less expending of energy.
4. Preservation of Land and Forests
With growing populations, increasing demands for food, and shrinking available land, there is a growing crisis globally. The forests being torn down are primarily being utilized for meat production. About 80% of all Amazon deforestation is due to meat raising activity. Raising animals for food takes up around 30% of the earth’s land mass. This land being used for meat production, be that slaughterhouses, feed lots, or crops grown specifically and only for animals is astounding. The clearing of this land is primarily used to grow grain to feed the animals. With meat demand growing around the world, there is no end in sight to the push for production. With one adopting a meatless lifestyle, some semblance of preservation of our precious land may be saved and the deforestation stopped.
It’s rare that one individual gets a chance to make a change on a personal level that also results in a change on an environmental level. It’s easy to think one’s choices don’t make a difference and fall into the fallacy of the tragedy of the commons. But, to make a difference in one’s health that results in a positive impact on the environment, a significant one at that, is something special that we can all collectively do to make us all a little healthier and keep the beautiful outdoors safe.