Why A Plant-Based Diet Is Good For The Environment

Eating animal products has been customary in most countries for quite some time. There are debates on what the best dietary choices are, but eating less meat and more plants is encouraged by most environmentalists. The benefits of a plant-based diet for the planet are extensive. Pair a plant-based diet with local produce and the Earth will thank you. 

It reduces your carbon footprint

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 14.5 percent of all human caused greenhouse gas emissions are caused by livestock. Beef and cattle milk are some of the largest contributors to our carbon footprint. 

Our air quality is also affected by animal agriculture. Animals bred for food produce huge amounts of manure and natural gas. This releases ammonia (potent nitrogen) and methane into the air, creating smog and killing fish, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Nutrient pollution damages the environment and human health.

plant-based diet
Animal products require more water than plant crops | JOSEPH FULGHAM

It reduces water consumption

Many assume that eating mainly plants would use a lot of water because plants need it to grow. The water consumption from animal products is actually far higher. Livestock requires large amounts of feed (usually corn, soy, or grain-based). 

According to the Water Footprint Network, it takes almost 70 gallons of water to produce one cup of milk and around 1800 gallons to produce one pound of beef. To compare, it takes around 300 gallons of water to produce one pound of rice. A simple change, like opting for a veggie burger or a bean burrito helps save large amounts of water instantly. 

plant-based diet
An aerial view of the Brazilian rainforest | EDUARDO ZMIEVSKI

It supports habitat preservation

Animal agriculture plays a key role in deforestation. Tropical deforestation is fueled by the need for space, to raise both livestock and livestock feed. According to FAL, a third of global arable land is used to grow feed. Biodiversity is lost and rainforests are destroyed just to put meat in our grocery stores.

Overfishing has also threatened ocean species and their beautiful reefs, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Entire food webs are negatively affected by fishing in reef communities. This National Geographic article explains how the sea simply cannot keep up with global demands for fish.

So what can you do about it? You might not be ready to go vegan, but you can take littles steps towards a plant-based diet. Try incorporating global superfoods into your repertoire and when traveling, seek out plant-based restaurants.

-Annie Lancaster