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This is Why Going Vegan is Good For The Environment

This is Why Going Vegan is Good For The Environment

You've probably heard people talking about veganism and climate change, but do you know exactly why going vegan is good for the environment?

In fact, just one person going vegan for a year can save the earth up to 62 tennis courts worth of land!

It may seem a bit strange that a dietary preference actually has an impact on the environment.

When I first heard about it I was shocked! I had no idea that going vegan, for a lot of people, was because they wanted to help the environment (among other reasons).

So why is going vegan good for the environment? By only eating plant-based meals, you save the earth from exhausting resources like trees and fresh water. You also stop large amounts of methane from being released into the atmosphere. Continue reading to find out how.

The effect of a vegan diet on the environment

In a blog post that I posted a while ago, I mentioned that the second largest contributor to climate change was methane. More specifically, methane produced from agricultural activities.

largest contributors to methane

If you've been reading my blogs for a while, you know that I prove my points (there's no room for fake news here)! So I've done some digging on how veganism and climate change is related, and this is what I found.

Take a look at what this Oxford published study says...

A global switch to diets that rely less on meat and more on fruit and vegetables could save up to 8 million lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds, and lead to healthcare-related savings and avoided climate damages of $1.5 trillion (US)

Dr. Marco Springmann, 2016

I get it, that's just one source. So let's see what Damian Carrington, an environmental editor for the Guardian, has to say about plant-based diets and climate change.

"The comparison of beef with plant protein such as peas is stark, with even the lowest impact beef responsible for six times more greenhouse gases and 36 times more land."

plant protein versus beef land usage, why vegan is good for the environment

How crazy is that? it takes 36 times more land to produce beef rather than plant protein, AND the beef still produces six times more greenhouse gasses! This isn't math, two negatives do not make a positive...

The amount of resources veganism saves the earth

When I was doing research for this article, I stumbled across a climate change food calculator. I found that people who eat just one serving of beef per day emit an absurd amount of greenhouse gasses per year.

This also means that we can calculate how many greenhouse gasses we can save by not eating one serving of beef per day.

So what if you ate vegan meals instead of eating two or more servings of beef for a year? If you subbed out beef for two or more servings for an entire year, you would save about 62 tennis courts worth of land. That's equal to 16,189m² land.

veganism and the environment

By skipping one serving of beef every day for a year, you would save the amount of resources to drive a regular petrol car 7,196 miles (11,581 kilometres). To give you a reference of how long that is, North America is only 5,000 miles (8,046 kilometres).

veganism and climate change

If you missed one serving of beef just once or twice a week for a year, you would save the amount of resources to heat the average U.K home for 95 days.

veganism and climate change heating a uk home

The downside of veganism and the environment

Unfortunately, there are some downsides to veganism. Among pretty much every other food in the world, not every fruit and veggie sold in grocery stores is locally produced.

This means that there's a lot of imported of food in the world of veganism, and this costs the environment.

Consumers benefit while leaving the source of the food struggling to afford dinner. "Take avocados and quinoa, whose prices have been pushed up so much by Western demand that they’ve become unaffordable to those who depend on them in their country of origin."

Luckily, there is a way to avoid the consequences of imported food. If you're able to grow a garden - whether it's in your yard, house, or a shared community space - grow your favourite veggies!

You could also pay special attention to where your food comes from in the grocery store, and buy locally produced food. The best place to do this is one of Anne Marie's favourite places to shop, a local farmer's market!

Vegetarians and climate change

We know that the production of meat is super harmful to the environment, but vegetarians don't eat meat. So what about vegetarians and climate change? If you went vegetarian, wouldn't that have the same environmental benefits as a vegan diet?

Simply put: no.

But it also depends on the type of vegetarian. Let's say you wake up, have eggs for breakfast, a macaroni and cheese for lunch, and a big cheese pizza with a glass of milk for dinner. That's going to have a far greater impact on the environment, and create way more greenhouse gasses than if you only occasionally had dairy products.

Marco Springmann of the University of Oxford explains this a little better. “A vegetarian diet may not be a solution [to tackling climate change], of course, it always depends on the proportion, but if you eat high amounts of dairy it would have a high impact."

So what's the conclusion of vegetarians and climate change? Is it worth it to go full vegan, or could you go vegetarian and just eat small amounts of dairy?

I personally feel better about going 100% vegan, or just eating extremely small amounts of dairy products. I'm vegetarian right now because I wasn't eating properly when I was vegan. Even though I'm currently vegetarian, I rarely have dairy products. So I believe Mr. Springmann would agree with me when I say my diet benefits the environment ALMOST as much as a vegan diet (I still have the occasional slice of cheese).

The verdict of vegetarians and climate change is: if you're vegetarian, try eating vegan meals for breakfast and lunch, then at dinner indulge in some dairy product or animal byproduct.

This way you really cut your need for cattle to be raised.

The problem with cattle (especially cows) is that there's currently a massive demand for them. That's a problem because in order to raise cattle, a lot of land needs to be cleared, and a lot of methane is produced.

It's a double threat, trees are cut down which increases CO2, and cattle are raised which increases methane.

Cows and climate change: How they're hurting the environment

When you go up to the deli counter and order a nice cut of sirloin, you may not realize the consequences you buy with that steak. Cows and climate change have been going hand in hand for some time now.

When you buy a piece of meat, you create a demand for it. The producers killed one cow, you bought some, so they need another cow. Now imagine that happening over 1 billion times.

Where do all of these cows go? Well, they need a lot of space to grow up - so trees are cut down and land is cleared for them.

cattle deforestation and why go vegan

Trees are vital for the environment to function because they absorb carbon dioxide (CO2). But when trees are cut down, they can't absorb CO2 anymore. So now that some trees are cleared and the land is ready for the cows, it's time to raise the cattle.

There really isn't a problem with raising a cow. It eats grass, minds it's own business and lives its life. Unfortunately, Earth isn't raising just a few cows. It's raising over a billion cows.

A billion cows eat a lot of grass, which takes a lot of water to maintain. Of course, cows need water for more than just the grass the eat, and they use a lot of it. More specifically, it takes an average of about 40 litres a day to raise beef cattle.

PETA recently stated that "it takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce just 1 pound of meat. Only 25 gallons of water are required to grow 1 pound of wheat. You can save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you can by not showering for six months!"

beef and environmental impacts

WOW! Now think about this, there's roughly 1.5 billion cows on the earth. Each cow produces about 430 pounds of meat that can be eaten.

In 2018, the average person in America ate about 26 pounds of beef and veal.By doing some quick math, we now know the average person in the U.S used about 650 gallons of water each year from beef consumption alone.

Trees and water aren't the only way cattle are hurting the environment. Cows produce an enormous amount of methane through flatulence and belching (farting and burping).

Cows burp and fart anywhere "between 70 and 120 kg of methane per year and, worldwide, there are about 1.5 billion cattle."

Think of buying things with money as voting. When you buy a reusable bag, you vote for more reusable bags. Now take that concept and use it for beef. You buy a piece of beef and sure, you're voting for a delicious meal. But you're also voting for deforestation, exhausting water sources, and producing billions of kilograms of methane into the atmosphere.

The worst foods for the environment, another reason to go vegan

While I was writing this post, I realized that you'll be reading this thinking, 'Okay, so beef is bad for the environment, but what about chicken, pork, or lamb, what about cheese?'

That's why I added this list, the worst foods for the environment.

The worst foods for the environment, listed from 'the worst' to 'still bad'

beef and climate change, why you should go vegan

1. Beef

To produce just one pound of beef, it takes about 25 gallons of water. Water isn't the only way beef cattle hurts the environment.

They're also responsible for the "release of 340 million tons of carbon to the atmosphere every year, equivalent to 3.4% of current global emissions" due to deforestation.

lamb and climate change, why you should go vegan

2. Lamb

Similar to beef cattle, due to their high demand and gassy nature - lamb makes number two on the list of 'The worst foods for the environment.' To produce just one kilogram of lamb meat, it take 8,763 litres of water.

3. Butter

The process of making butter isn't actually the reason it's on this list. The reason butter is on this list is because it requires cattle to make it. As we know from the section 'Cows and climate change: How they're hurting the environment,' cattle are extremely harmful to the environment.

4. Shellfish

CNN described shellfish' environmental impact as costing "the environment 11.7 kilos of CO2 for every kilo of food produced, just marginally less than butter." Luckily, according to CNN, shellfish are one of the foods that Americans are cutting down on.

cheese and the environment, why you should go vegan

5. Cheese

Like number three on this list, cheese is only here because of the environmental impact that cattle have.

It's not because of transport emissions or the production of it (although those don't help the environment either).

6. Asparagus

The only really surprising food on that list is asparagus, I did a 'double-take' when I saw that. Why is one of the worst foods for environment?

PETA says that according to the NRDC "Most asparagus sold in the U.S. is flown in from Latin America, which significantly increases the amount of greenhouse gases associated with the vegetable."

7. Pork

pork and climate change, why you should go vegan

Like most livestock, pork is bad for the environment purely because of the demand for it.

If this were before the industrial revolution and the global population was half what it is, eating livestock wouldn't be a huge problem for the environment.

However, that's not the case. Pork is bad for the environment because producing one kilo of pork creates 7.9 kilos of carbon emissions.


If you want to fight climate change and help the environment, go vegan! I know, I know, it's easier said than done. But I hope this blog post at least inspired you to eat less meat and taught you why going vegan is good for the environment!

If you're planning on switching to a plant-based diet, take it slow! start by eating a vegan meal a couple times a week, then slowly transition. It is definitely worth it!

If you learn anything from this post, please share it on social media! It helps spread awareness and also helps ReduceWasteNow grow, thank you!!

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