Switching To A Plant-Based Diet: Our Top 5 Environmental Reasons Why
Food waste is a global problem. In the developed world, our choices during the consumer stage can have a substantial impact on the future of food. Deciding to eat a plant-based diet isn’t always about the health benefits. For many, a driving force behind deciding to cut out meat and dairy products is to reduce the impact on the environment.
Whether you’re sitting down for supper, or grazing through the supermarket, many conscious eaters stop and ask themselves, where does our food come from? who grew it? What has its impact been on the environment? For many people, making these decisions can be difficult and overwhelming, leaving them feeling undetermined and slipping back into their old ways. That’s why we wanted to give you our top 5 reasons on how going plant-based reduces your environmental footprint, and what questions to ask yourselves when your stuck at the grocery store. Whether you’re mulling over local kale from the farm outside of town, or organic kale from the next province over, we’re hoping that this will help give you some clarity on how your decision as a consumer can have a greater impact on the health of our environment.
1. REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
Of all the reasons to go plant-based, the subject of climate change is the most widely discussed. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The main GHG that animal livestock produces is methane and while Carbon Dioxide is typically painted as the bad guy, methane is roughly 30x more potent as a heat-trapping gas. Reducing the amount of methane in the atmosphere would create tangible benefits almost right away. Next time you’re grazing the produce aisle or the meat market, ask yourself this, how can my decisions today help lower my carbon footprint as an individual?
2. SAVE MORE WATER, EAT MORE PLANTS
While the statistics are often different depending on the animal’s environment and diet, It takes approx. 1,800 gallons of water just to produce one pound of meat. To put that into perspective, you can save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you can by not showering for four months! Unfortunately, while most of the western countries mow down on corn dogs and hamburgers, around 1.1 billion people worldwide still lack access to decent water supplies and 2.7 billion people struggle with finding water to sustain themselves daily. Whether you’re at a summer BBQ or deciding what to have for supper, its easy to forget the water footprint that these animals have. Try looking for plant-based alternatives, not only are they often non-GMO/chemical free, but it’s a fun way to try out new recipes and flavours.
3. DECREASE THE USE OF CHEMICALS BEING USED AND CONSUMED GLOBALLY
Speaking of chemicals, reducing the amount of meat and dairy that you eat can help to reduce the amount of chemicals that are used globally. To meet the current demand for meat and dairy products, farmers are having to feed their livestock high-calorie grain-based diets for a faster growth process. In return, the need for fast growth leads to the need for antibiotics. If you think about it, with every bite of meat you eat that has been mass produced, you’re introducing new chemicals and antibiotics into your body that might not have been present otherwise. The good news: Eat more plant-based foods to avoid the presence of unnecessary chemicals and antibiotics in your system.
4. REDUCE NUTRIENT RUNOFF THAT GOES INTO OUR STREAMS, RIVERS AND OCEANS
Half of the oxygen that we breathe comes from tiny organisms that live in the ocean, these tiny organisms are called phytoplankton. Unfortunately, when we practice farming, we produce substantial amounts of agricultural runoff. This nutrient dense runoff includes fertilizers, pesticides and antibiotics and in return, ends up in the ocean nearly suffocating much of the marine life. While the main cause of nutrient pollution isn’t n the meat itself, rather it’s in the enormous amounts of fertilizer that is used to produce corn and soy to FEED the animals on the factory farms. To give you an example, nearly 30% of the corn raised in the US goes to feed for chickens and cows that are used for meat. Need a way of coping with this? Try buying local AND organic produce next time you go to the supermarket, not only are you reducing your impact of environmental degradation, but you’re supporting local organic farmers too.
5. LAND DEGRADATION
Livestock grazing is the number one cause of plant species becoming threatened or going extinct in North America. Every minute, the equivalent of 7 football fields are bulldozed to create more room for farmed animals. Animals also eat substantial amounts of grain, soybeans, oats and corn, which in return takes even more land to produce. To put that into perspective, approx. 70% of grain and cereals grown in North America are fed to farmed animals. It requires 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of meat. Livestock production also plays a significant role in the global biodiversity crisis that we are now facing. If this is all a little too doom and gloom for you, just remember that a single choice of ours can have a broad and decisive impact on the climate crisis. As an individual, you can advocate for the planet, by eating more plant-based foods.
“EAT FOOD, NOT MUCH, MOSTLY PLANTS”
– MICHAEL POLLAN