Plant-Based Diet: The Environmental Choice

By Emily Hayashida, High Tech High North County Senior Intern

When the entire production cycle of beef is taken into account, it is the single greatest source of greenhouse gases in the livestock sector. With the U.S providing 18% of the world’s cattle meat, the sector is faced with the dilemma of reducing the overall emission footprint. In personal terms, producing about 2 pounds of beef requires the same amount of energy as driving a car around for three hours, while leaving behind a fully lit house, according to The National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Sciences in Japan’s study. Which is actually an underestimate since the study did not account for the additional energy that goes into managing farm infrastructure and transportation of the beef, or the emissions produced when forests are clear-cut for grazing land. Raising livestock also consumes about 2,500 gallons of water per 1 pound of beef and the animal’s diets account for about 70% of the U.S. grain production.

While the issue of beef is one that has a global scale effect, there are many viable solutions to the issue at hand. Regardless of the role of meat and dairy in nutrition or the ethics of animal rights, on the grounds of economic and ecological sustainability alone, the consumption of animal products is a looming problem for humankind. If you seek to live a lifestyle that has a smaller carbon footprint, going vegetarian or vegan is an environmentally responsible option. According to Earthsave, the land required to feed 1 person for 1 year is 1 acre for a vegan, 3 acres for vegetarians, and 30 acres for a meat eater. And when discussing raw weight, 1.5 acres can produce 37,000 pounds of plant-based food while only 375 pounds of meat. A person who follows a vegan diet, produces 50% less carbon dioxide, uses 91% less oil, 92% less water, and 97% less land compared to a person who consumes meat on a regular basis.

To be a true environmentalist, one should switch their meat-based diet to a vegan-based one. While it’s not required to switch over, it is recommended for a cleaner, healthier environment. If we want to truly commit to saving the earth, we must make some changes in our everyday lives to benefit us in the long run.


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