It is common knowledge that going vegan, vegetarian or eating a more plant-based diet is good for the environment. It’s less commonly known exactly how it benefits the environment. If you’re not sure why eco-conscious individuals are eating less meat, this is the post for you!
A vegan diet means you contribute less in emissions than a vegetarian or omnivorous diet. To prove this, in a two-week experiment, the BBC tracked emissions from a vegan, vegetarian and omnivorous diet.
- Vegan CO2e emissions per week: 9.9kg
- Vegetarian CO2e emissions per week: 16.9kg
- Omnivore CO2e emissions per week: 48.9kg
It’s worth noting, however, that they found that having the lowest carbon footprint as a vegan isn’t guaranteed – it depends on what you eat and how you eat it. 61% of the total emissions linked to some foods are generated in the preparation and cooking part, which takes place at home, particularly with vegetables. Even toasting bread adds an extra 13% to its carbon footprint. Even frozen chips – a vegan product – have more of a carbon footprint than any of the other processed potato varieties. Oven roasting is emission-heavy, especially if not utilising the full oven. Boiling, steaming, air frying and microwaving keeps emissions lower.
Globally, 83% of farmland is used for grazing animals and around 70% of the grain grown is used to feed livestock. This is around 700 million tonnes of grain that could be used to feed humans instead. The land that houses livestock could instead be used to grow a variety of nutrient-rich vegetables, especially as the population continues to grow. With more farmland available globally, crops grown could be used to feed local people instead of shipped across the world.
Water Usage and Soil Erosion
Livestock drink more water than humans, and more water is needed for them than growing plants. Switching livestock paddocks for vegetable growing would save water, as it takes 100-200 times more water to raise a pound of beef than a pound of plant foods. Cutting down by 1 kilo of beef would save 15,000 litres of water, and swapping out one roast chicken saves 4325 litres. Livestock is also one of the biggest polluters of our fresh water.
Livestock also erodes and weakens soil, usually by removing forests and natural plants that provide nutrients to make space for an animal paddock or building.
Air Pollution and Deforestation
According to GlobalCitizen.org, all the livestock in the world cause more air pollution than all the cars, buses, planes, ships and other modes of transportation in the world combined. Plants and trees clean the air by releasing oxygen and taking in CO2.
When trees are cut down, they cannot provide this necessary service. In fact, their stored carbon is released into the atmosphere instead. Large scale industrial agriculture is responsible for 85% of deforestation, and most deforestation is due to needing pasture for cows.
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