Nov 3, 2021
From bringing our reusable bags to the grocery store to switching to clean energy, many of us have been taking steps to reduce our impact on the environment in all aspects of our lives. But did you know that the food on your plate could be one of the biggest contributors to your personal carbon footprint? Scientists have discovered one of the best ways you can help the planet: eating plant-based foods.
What is “Plant-Based” Eating?
A plant-based diet consists of food that comes from plants and has no ingredients from animals, such as meat, dairy, or eggs. Plant-based foods and ingredients include fruits, vegetables, grains, starches, beans, legumes, and nuts. Tofu and other meat alternatives, as well as dairy-free milks and cheeses, are also popular plant-based foods.
Meat and Dairy’s Toll on the Planet
Plant-based eating is on the rise as people learn more about the negative impacts of meat and dairy. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions—more than all transportation emissions. It is also responsible for more than 80% of Amazon deforestation, as millions of acres have been destroyed and are now used for cattle ranching. Meat and dairy use 83% of the world’s farmland, but provide just 18% of the world’s calories.
Animal agriculture also consumes up to 76 trillion gallons of water every year. In the U.S., 55% of the water consumed is for animal agriculture, while only 5% is consumed by private homes. Did you know that one pound of beef can take up to 4,000 gallons of water to produce? In comparison, one pound of vegetables only requires 39 gallons of water.
Going Plant-Based Can Have A Huge Impact
A UN report on climate change found that shifting away from meat consumption and towards plant-based diets on a global scale could have significant environmental impacts, and scientists have found that avoiding meat and dairy products is the “single biggest way” to reduce your environmental impact—“far bigger” than taking fewer flights or buying an electric car.
A person who eats a plant-based diet produces 50% less carbon dioxide, uses 13x less water, and uses 18x less land than meat-eaters. That saves 1,100 gallons of water, 30 square feet of forested land, and 20 pounds of CO2 equivalent every day!
In the U.S., shifting towards plant-based diets on a national scale would reduce agricultural emissions by up to 73% and save one million liters of water per person, per year. And if every American substituted beans for beef, our country could achieve up to 74% of the greenhouse gas reduction targets set in the Paris Agreement.
Other Benefits of Plant-Based Eating
In addition to the countless environmental benefits, eating plant-based foods may also have several health benefits, including improving cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart health; preventing type 2 diabetes, stroke, or cancer; and helping people lose weight and live longer. Plant-based diets also help protect animals by lowering demand for products such as meat, dairy, and eggs.
Plant-Based Eating Has Never Been Easier—Or Tastier!
Today, plant-based foods are more accessible than ever before. Meat alternatives such as Impossible Burgers and Beyond Meat are on the rise. There are milk, yogurt, and ice cream alternatives made from soy, coconut, almond, and even oat milk. Restaurants and grocery stores have more plant-based options than ever before, and there are tons of plant-based cookbooks and recipes. Plant-based eating has also never been more popular. Plant-based food sales grew 27% in 2020—nearly double the rate of overall food sales. There are even many celebrities and athletes who eat plant-based diets, including Venus Williams, Alex Morgan, Zac Efron, Billie Eilish, Chris Paul, and Kyrie Irving.
If you’re interested in learning more about plant-based eating, there are tons of resources to teach you everything you need to know and help you make the transition. You can calculate the carbon footprint of your food to understand more about how the food you eat contributes to your overall environmental impact. There are several documentaries about plant-based eating, such as Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives, and The Game Changers. And you can find tasty plant-based recipes on our Pinterest!
Plant-based eating can have a huge positive impact on the planet. Even eating plant-based just one day a week can reduce your environmental impact significantly. Looking for more ways you can help the planet? Sign up for 100% clean, renewable energy today!