Many people know the nutritional effect of veganism on their lives, but they haven’t thought of whether the practice could make any changes to the environment. Let’s look at six of the most important ways veganism improves and protects the environment.
1. Increases the availability of fresh water
Did you know that it takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce just a single pound of beef from the beginning to the end of production? Livestock drink more fresh water than other creatures, and they often pollute water, which makes for a lot of waste we can’t afford.
On the other hand, it takes just 25 gallons to make a pound of wheat. Some simple math shows a big need for change among food producers and consumers. Since hundreds of millions of people around the globe don’t have access to clean water and even more face water scarcity due to drought situations and mismanagement of water sources, a change is in order.
If livestock are replaced with plants, we’ll have more clean water to go around for everyone.
2. Purifies the air
We’re all aware of the havoc that we wreak on the planet from CO2 emissions and pollution. However, a huge air polluter we may not be aware of is livestock. In addition to consuming large amount of water, cattle also contribute more CO2 into the atmosphere than all forms of transportation or man-made contributors.
According to a report from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN the worldwide production of livestock produces 18 percent of humans’ greenhouse gas. That’s more than any form of travel known to man. On the flip side, plants clean the air, which means replacing emission-creating livestock with purifying plants will have a drastic impact on the environment.
3. Reduces energy consumption
The undue energy consumption of producing livestock is due to many combined factors. Raising a single animal doesn’t happen overnight — it takes a long time to raise them to the point that they’re ready to be used as meat. During their lifetime, farm animals consume mass amounts of food — grown on valuable land. Both the land and the food could be used for more sustainable purposes.
Next, meat products need to be shipped and refrigerated before reaching a consumer. From slaughterhouse to someone’s kitchen table, meat takes a long time to be produced and processed. Plant-based protein, in comparison, can be raised using about eight times less energy cost than it takes to make meat-based proteins.
4. Improves soil quality
By no fault of their own, livestock weaken and erode soil. Mass deforestation is often a result of our need for more livestock and meat. We bulldoze seven football fields of land every minute to make more room for farmed animals, and raising them uses 30 percent of the planet’s land mass — think the size of Asia. The trees we clear in the process no longer provide resilience and nutrients for the soil.
Raising diverse plants instead of meat will nourish the soil and offer it long-term resilience. The bottom line is that more plants and less livestock will lead to healthier soil around the world.
5. Enhances human health
It’s no secret that humans have countless health issues to contend with over the course of a lifetime, and it’s on everyone’s mind. We worry about cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other complications. In today’s food market, a high percentage of people maintain diets high in processed meat and added preservatives, sugar and chemicals that impede health and energy. While it’s far from a given that changing to veganism will automatically mean a healthier diet, the change often improves food quality.
Many people worry they won’t be able to maintain a sustainable and healthy diet if they shift into this new eating regimen, but veganism done right provides all the nutrients we need and keeps us healthy. Fresh fruits, vegetables, lentils and other vegan staples are crucial in our diets. Cutting meat and other animal products will help people remember to consume the critical foods they otherwise often forget.
It’s also worth mentioning that adopting veganism can be a fun process that not only helps the environment but also exposes you to new, delicious foods you would never have considered eating before. New and exciting menus and cooking options can make you a better chef.
6. Allows ethical treatment of all living creatures
Humans aren’t the only living beings on the planet who deserve to be treated with respect. Animals deserve proper treatment, too. They’re gentle, feeling and more intelligent than most people give them credit for — they know what’s happening to them.
Most people can agree that it’s not right for any creature to suffer from the time they’re born to the time they die — animals born into factory farms are no different. The vast majority of meat produced comes from a grim reality you can combat by cutting even a few meat products out of your diet each week. You’ll be improving the environment with the knowledge that your eating habits are more ethical and kind for every individual — human and nonhuman — sharing this planet.
Change to veganism and better the Earth
The right choice is clear. If you start making the transition to veganism, you’ll know you’re treating the environment and all of its residents better. Make this change for better health, a cleaner conscience, more sustainable practices and overall better living.
This is a guest post written by Emily Folk.
Emily is a conservation and sustainability writer.
She is the editor of Conservation Folks, and you can see her latest updates by following her on Twitter.