It’s been widely established that going plant-based can be a great way to improve your health, and mounting evidence also suggests that veganism is good for the planet as well. As the world continues to warm, the UN and environmental experts have called the adoption of a plant-based diet ‘essential’ in helping reverse the detrimental effects of climate change.
Let’s go over some of the ways a vegan diet can benefit the environment.
Reduces Pollution And Saves Lives
If everyone went vegan, 8.1 million deaths could be avoided and $30 trillion dollars saved by 2050.
A plant-based diet is an excellent way for people to reduce their carbon footprint. In a recent report, UK researchers found that adopting a vegan diet can help reduce the equivalent of nearly 1 tonne of CO2 emissions, per person, annually. Over the average lifespan this would equate to roughly 64 tonnes of carbon saved and among carbon-cutting measures ranked ahead of renewable-based heating (0.64 tonnes) and the adoption of heat pumps (0.795 tonnes).
So, what if everyone decided to go vegan? Well, according to a 2016 study by the University of Oxford, the world’s food-related emissions would drop by a staggering 70% thru the year 2050! Furthermore, the researchers modelled the economic and health related benefits, finding that around 8.1 million diet-related deaths (due to excess calorie intake and red meat consumption) could be avoided and up to $30 trillion dollars saved as a result of reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the same time frame. A 2018 follow-up study produced even more substantial results, with lead researcher Joseph commenting that “a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact” when considering greenhouse gases, land and water use.”
The impact of a vegan diet begins to make even more sense when you consider how much greenhouse gas is emitted from livestock (meat and dairy) alone. Recent estimates by the UN place the figure at around 7.1 Gigatonnes, or 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions per year. A reduction in the amount of livestock raised for consumption would not only curb emissions, but also use less natural resources (including food) to sustain said animals, which could be repurposed to feed those in need.
Sustainable Water And Land Use
One glass of dairy milk produced every day for a year requires more than ten times the land as the equivalent amount of oat milk.
The global animal agriculture industry places an enormous burden on our plant’s natural resources. If we are to hit our predicted global human population of 10 billion by 2050, we will have to harvest an additional 50% more land in order to grow the food required to support current consumption habits. Unfortunately, we are running out of space, making this ask a near impossibility and further indicative of misplaced priorities when it comes to sustainable land use. Take the United States, which currently utilises 127.4 million acres of land to grow food for livestock, versus the 77.3 million acres devoted to grow crops that directly feed humans. By some estimates over 80% of farmland is used to support animal agriculture, either to raise farmed animals or growing their feed. All of this means more land is required to feed a growing population, leading to deforestation in places such as the Amazon rainforest, where between one and two acres of land are cleared every second.
Switching to a plant-based milk is another great way to reduce emissions, land and water use. One glass of dairy milk produced every day for a year requires more than ten times the land as the equivalent amount of oat milk, clocking in at around two tennis courts worth of space. It takes 120 litres of water to produce one, 8-ounce serving of cow’s milk versus 10 litres for oat, 74 litres for almond or 1.9 for pea milk, respectively.
Now’s The Time
All of the above evidence shows that small changes can add up. Thankfully, consumers who are concerned about not only their own health, but the health of the planet, have an abundance of plant-based options that can fill almost every dietary niche. It has never been easier or more accessible to transition to a vegan diet. And there has never been a better time to support the environment than right now.