Your Diet Has A Bigger Impact on the Planet Than You Think
We all look to our government to hold responsible for combatting the effects of climate change (as we should), and after Trump made the decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, there is a lot of concern about the future of the earth if America continues to ignore climate change. The U.S. became one of three countries that did not sign the agreement, joining Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations that would not agree to the pact (FYI - Nicaragua didn't sign because the agreement didn't go FAR ENOUGH).
But good news for those concerned about the president's lack of knowledge and urgency in addressing climate change - your diet has a greater impact on the future of the planet and it's resources than you may realize. In addition to being a governmental responsibility, climate change is largely a matter of personal responsibility, and what we put into our bodies is one of the easiest and most important ways we can implement change in our everyday lives. We've all heard that going vegetarian or vegan, or at least cutting out meat has a positive impact on the environment, but how big of an affect does it actually have?
Over 80 billion land animals are farmed for food worldwide, and each may require around 15 pounds of feed to produce just a single pound of meat for consumption. The means that only about 11% of feed energy is converted into consumable meat.
Not to mention the amount of resources just farming animals physically takes up. According to the United Nations, about 30% of the earth's landmass is used to farm animals for meat, dairy, and egg production - more than the entire transportation sector worldwide. This means that farming animals for consumption has a larger impact on climate change than all of the world's cars, trucks, trains, and automobiles combined. That's insane.
Plus, farm animals require a massive amount of water and lead us to leave a much greater water footprint than we may realize. Producing just a single steak requires 2,000 gallons of water, according to Water Footprint Network Data. A single glass of milk require 800 gallons, one pound of chicken requires 600 gallons, and a single egg requires nearly 400 gallons of water.
So what can you do to make an impact but don't want to entirely cut out meat from your diet? Start small. Substitute one meal a week with a meatless alternative. According to the Environmental Defense fund, if each American replaced chicken with plant-based foods just one meal per week, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off the U.S. roads. Although cutting out meat entirely has the greatest impact, clearly making small substitutions has significant benefits.
The fact we can enact real change in our day to day lives is encouraging, given we cannot rely on those in Washington to get the job done on a nationwide scale. We often doubt our ability to invoke change in a real way, especially when it's something as major and global as climate change. But the statistics show that the solution lies not only in our governmental policies, but the decision and habits we make in our everyday lives.
We challenge you to start making these changes. Giving up meat and dairy is hard, we know that (we live in Wisconsin, the literal dairy state...). But the potential long term benefits to making these changes greatly outweighs the sacrifice of one meatless meal.
Where you live also has an impact on how accessible vegan and vegetarian alternatives are. Here are the best cities in America for vegans and vegetarians. How does your city stack up?
Need some vegetarian recipe inspiration to get you started? Here are some of our favorite recipes that might make you even a little excited to give up meat.
Photo: Sara Gelotte