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

Updated: 2 days ago



World Vegan Day is November 1. This day was established in the United Kingdom in 1994 to celebrate 50 years of the Vegan Society. Now it's celebrated around the world as a way to honor human health, the planet's health, and animal welfare. It's a great opportunity to try a vegan meal, make a vegan recipe, or take a moment to learn about how being vegan, or simply eating more plant-based foods, can help the planet.


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 states,


“a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact (GHG emissions and energy, land, and water use) than is the current average U.S. diet.”


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. Try to make plant-based foods like vegetables, whole grains, and legumes the center of the plate, rather than meat the center of the plate. Want to find out the carbon footprint of everyday foods you eat? Use this handy climate change calculator.




Below are seven ways in which animal agriculture is impacting the planet's ability, and all of its inhabitants (including humans!), to thrive and survive.


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


GREENHOUSE GASES

Livestock and their byproducts are responsible for 14.5 percent of worldwide CO2 greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, methane (gas produced from an animal's digestion) has a global warming potential of 80 times that of CO2 over a 20-year time frame. Livestock is also responsible for 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which is 265 more potent than CO2 and can stick around our environment for 120 years. 


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.


WASTE

Animal agriculture produces 13 times more waste than humans in the United States alone. More animal waste equals more methane, more polluted waters, and faster climate change.


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. For more information on why the current fishing industry is unsustainable, please visit our article, "What's Wrong with Fish?"

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.



HUMANITY

There are currently over 7.98 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 plant-based food. (Even better if it's local and organic whenever possible!)


Want to dive further into plant-based eating?

Visit all plant-based recipes here.

Visit the blog for more plant-based articles here.

Get 5-minute plant-based dressing recipes here. (FREE!).


Correction: it takes 1800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef :) My brain turned off in that moment!

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