How Does Going Vegan Save The Environment?
Climate change is more prevalent than ever, with severe storms, heat waves, and melting glaciers at the forefront of the issues we face today. Greenhouse gas levels are at an all-time high, and while there are efforts to combat it, there hasn’t been enough to reduce emissions significantly.
Many experts have said that a global shift towards a plant-based diet is instrumental in curbing the damage we’ve done to the world. The question is, how?
Reduces Greenhouse Gases Emissions
There’s no easy way to say this—emissions and greenhouse gasses intertwine with many aspects of food production. From farm machinery to transportation of goods, food production accounts for about 35% of total greenhouse gas emissions. The meat industry generates 57% of food production emissions, making it the most significant contributor to food production-related emissions.
For starters, the manure from ruminant livestock like cows and sheep releases methane gasses that turn into carbon dioxide. Not only that but up to 36% of crops grown are used to feed and raise livestock, which takes up land that could be used to provide food for humans instead. In terms of emissions, one research paper pointed out that growing 1kg of wheat only generates about 2.5kg of greenhouse gases while a single kilo of beef generates about 70kg.
Some experts suggest that if everyone globally went vegan, we could reduce greenhouse gases caused by food production by as much as 70% by 2050. That isn’t to say that fruits and vegetables don’t emit greenhouse gases (because they do), but going vegan would drastically reduce the amount, and thus making the planet a more environmentally friendly place.
Although water makes up 71% of the Earth, we’re facing a critical water supply crisis. That’s because a majority of our planet’s water is either undrinkable or deep underground in permafrost. In actuality, the Earth has only about 2.5% of fresh water available and even less for us to drink.
The excessive use of water across various industries is seen in the meat industry, as livestock needs to drink regularly. Besides that, water is also necessary for growing animal feed.
When you become vegan, you consume a lot less water than the average meat-eater. Research shows that one person going vegan can save over 200,000 gallons of water a year. Bonus points: you’re not supporting factory farms and their heinous treatment of animals in the process.
Cleans Up Waterways
Along with chemicals from tanneries, pesticides for crops, and other animal wastes, the meat industry significantly pollutes our waterways. This damage doesn’t stop in the rivers and lakes—the meat industry also creates “dead zones” in the ocean, where oxygen from the atmosphere fails to reach the deeper parts and subsequently damages oceanic ecosystems. There are currently 405 dead zones all over the world.
Thankfully, damage to our waterways is reversible if animal agriculture is done responsibly, or better yet, disappears completely. With more vegans or vegetarians in the world, there will be a smaller demand for meat. Therefore, a lower amount of pollution, animal waste, and excess toxic fertilizers will run off to our rivers.
Combats World Hunger
You might be surprised to learn about this, but a lot of food grown in the world isn’t being eaten by humans. In 2019, research led by Poore and Nemecek accessed the environmental impact of the meat industry on the planet. Their discovery was shocking—more than 80% of farmland is used for animals, but this only produces 18% of total calories.
This indicates that the acres and acres of farmland set aside for grazing animals and animal feed are not efficient in feeding people. It’s estimated that around 700 million tons of food that humans could consume goes to livestock every year, with up to 50% of food being wasted during distribution.
With the global population expected to surpass 9.9 billion by 2050, there’s simply not enough land on Earth to feed everyone on a typical Western diet of vegetables and meat—nor can the Earth cope with the pollution this would cause.
By going vegan, land used for grazing animals can be reallocated to growing food for humans. Not only does it provide more food for hungry people, but a vegan diet also has a more diverse nutrient profile that’s generally healthier and more fulfilling.
Preserves Animal Species and Habitats
Like we’ve mentioned, large areas of forests and other green ecosystems are cleared to make way for cultivating livestock. Many animals are forcefully removed from their habitats, diminishing the diversity that makes ecosystems work as intended in the first place.
This is the breaking point needed to push many endangered animals to the brink of extinction. The Chatham House think tank estimates that agriculture is the main threat to 86% of the 28,000 at-risk animal species.
When you reduce your dependence on meat and dairy consumption, you’re not only saving the animals in meat farms. You’re also preserving crucial ecosystems that our planet needs to thrive by removing the need to clear out more land for animal agriculture.
Can I Change The World By Just Going Vegan?
Climate change is a genuine and complex issue, and one habit change isn’t going to do much against such a huge problem. But through awareness and systemic revolution, we can collectively reduce human-based pollution as much as possible to buy more time for our planet.
Going vegan isn’t the final solution to our climate concerns, but it’s sure as heck an excellent place to start. Switching to a predominantly plant-based diet means you’re consciously choosing to reduce the impact of environmental crises we face today. With veganism becoming more mainstream and accessible, everyone can choose to better our planet, ourselves, and everyone around us.
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