7 Reasons to Eat More Plant-Based Foods for the Planet

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

You've probably heard by now that plant-based foods are better for the environment than eating meat. In fact, even the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee suggested that eating a plant-based diet is not only better for health, but also the environment. Their report stated,

"The organically grown vegan diet had the lowest estimated impact on resources and ecosystem quality, and the average Italian diet had the greatest projected impact,” according to the report. “Beef was the single food with the greatest projected impact on the environment; other foods estimated to have high impact included cheese, milk, and seafood."

You don't have to be 100 percent vegan to make an impact. Simply eating less meat can help. For example, if you substitute vegetables or a plant-based protein for meat for just one meal a day you can make a difference. Or, if you're on board with Meatless Mondays, eating all plant-based foods for one day out of the week, you are making a big difference. It doesn't need to be all or nothing. While it's pretty clear that eating plant-based is optimal for your health, the environment and animals, simply cutting back on meat, poultry, fish and dairy can still be beneficial.

1. WATER: Animal agriculture is responsible for one-third of total water consumption and 23-30 percent of all the fresh water in the world. 

  • 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef

  • 768 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk

  • 468 gallons of water to produce one pound of chicken

  • 56 gallons of water to produce one pound of cheese

  • 53 gallons of water to produce one egg

  • The amount of gallons of water needed to produce one pound of vegetables, legumes, fruits or grains ranges from 34 gallons per pound (broccoli) to almost 300 gallons per pound for rice

2. GREENHOUSE GASES: Livestock and their byproducts are responsible for 14.5 percent of worldwide CO2 greenhouse gas emissions. Methane, produced from an animal's digestion, has a global warming potential of 25 times that of CO2 on a 20-year time frame. Livestock is also responsible for 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which is 296 more potent than CO2 and can stick around our environment for 150 years. 

3. LAND: If we combine pastures used for grazing with land used to grow crops for animal feed, livestock accounts for 77 percent of global farming land. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and destruction of habitats.

4. WASTE: Animal agriculture produces 130 times more waste than humans in the United States alone. More animal waste equals more methane and faster climate change.

5. OCEANS: Talk about an unsustainable practice, consider this: we could see a depleted ocean by the year 2048. That is not that too far in the future! For every pound of fish caught, five pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded. As many as 40% of fish caught each year are discarded. It is estimated that as many as 650,000 whales, dolphins and seals are killed every year from fishing vessels and 40-50 million sharks are killed in fishing nets and lines. 

6. RAINFORESTS: Up to 91% of Amazon's destruction is from animal agriculture. Clearing land for animal agriculture is leading to the death of wildlife and species extinction. It also contributes further to climate change with the release of CO2 as land is cleared.

7. HUMANITY: There are currently over 7 billion humans on this planet with a billion of them going hungry and another billion suffering from hidden hunger while others over consume. Sadly, over 70% of the grain grown in the world is to feed animals, contributing to global hunger.

Whatever your conviction might be for eating more plants and less meat (health, environment or animals) know that you are contributing to sustainable practices for the planet when you opt for plant-based choices. You're saving water, land and rainforests; reducing waste; and supporting the fight for hunger when you choose local, organic plant-based food. 

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