Plant-based diets are associated with sustainability. Plant-based diets are famous for weight loss and health. Most people adopt them to reduce human environmental impact. These are the main points that should get anyone to adopt a more plant-based diet, even if that means having meat one less day a week.
Adopting a plant-based diet is predicted to reduce carbon footprint, pollution, hunger, and climate change. Animal farming uses both a lot of land for grazing and even more land for crops to feed said animals. Healthwise, a plant-based diet has been linked with lower risks of cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other lifestyle diseases.
As an observation, the more a country gets affluent, the more the residents partake in unhealthy eating habits. The current food trends have resulted in a collision course of food sustainability and food security. To avoid the collision (between sustainability and security), there has to be a significant reduction in meat and dairy consumption worldwide. Going back to a plant-based diet is the most reasonable thing to do for a sustainable future.
What Is A Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet focuses primarily on eating foods sourced from plants. It doesn’t mean they lack dairy and meat consumption, but rather incorporating more plants into your diet. Most foods consumed in a plant-based diet include; nuts, fruits, cereals, vegetables, legumes, beans, seeds, and oils.
In most plant-based diets, meat is more of a garnish on food rather than the centerpiece. Under plant-based diets, we have Vegetarian, Mediterranean, and Vegan diets too. To most people, these are less of a diet and more of a lifestyle.
Alleviate hunger and minimize land use. A report found that 820 million people worldwide lacked sufficient food. When it comes to agriculture, many lands are for animal farming and crop production (for those animals). In agricultural animal farming, a lot of food is used to produce meat.
Plant-based diets are more efficient as they cut out the middleman. On this diet, you eat plants directly instead of eating animals who eat plants. By skipping this step, you save the world from more pollution and land use caused by rearing animals.
In the U.S, 415 million acres are used permanently for pastures used to rear livestock. According to research by Florida International University, livestock production is the most significant cause of habitat loss.
In the Amazon, cattle’s quantity has increased from 5 million in the 1960s to 70-80 million heads. Almost 15% of the Amazon land underwent deforestation, and over 80% is used for pasture.
Between 2000 and 2010, 80% of plant proteins produced in the U.S were for animal consumption. If this amount of food were consumed by humans directly, there would be less food scarcity and starvation cases worldwide.
Saves Water. Plant-based diets help in tackling water scarcity. In the U.S, almost half of the water supply goes towards raising livestock. Most of the water used isn’t by animals directly, but instead in the crop production for these animals. 18000 to 4000 gallons of water produces a pound of beef.
According to research, by 2055, 64% of the world will be living in water-stressed areas, while 33% in absolute water scarcity.
Animal agriculture also leads to an increase in soil erosion, choking of streams and wetlands (through grazing). Industrialized animal excrete can also spill over and contaminate water sources. Factory farms produce a large volume of waste, and it gets hard to manage.
Fertilizers and pesticides used in crops for animals can also contaminate water supplies. When nitrogen in these fertilizers gets into the water, it causes the growth of algae. Algae upon decomposing deplete oxygen in water leading to massive deaths in marine life.
Reduce impacts of climate change. The number of animals raised for slaughter outweighs wildlife by a ratio of 15-1. For every human on the planet, there are around three chickens. According to Food and Agriculture Organization, meat and dairy alone account for 14.5% of global greenhouse emissions.
The climate impact of different animals is determined by how they digest food. Some animals (like goat) belch out methane during digestion, which is thirty-four times more potent than carbon dioxide over a hundred years.
Tropical deforestation accounts for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions because cutting down these forests releases carbon. These forests were cut down for agricultural animal rearing.
Plant-based foods have a lower carbon footprint compared to dairy and meat. Emissions from plant-based foods are 10-50 percent lower than those of animal products.
Saves lives. With the rise of lifestyle diseases like obesity, blood pressure, and diabetes, all but plant-based diets are recommended by doctors. Despite the amount of research that has backed up plant-based diets, it still is a lifestyle not recommended sufficient, primarily due to lack of information.
Plant-based diets reduce blood pressure. A study in Japan with a plant-based diet and low sodium consumption resulted in lower systolic blood pressure. People following plant-based diets were also less likely to develop heart disease, obesity, or diabetes.
Plant-based diets are associated with a lower mortality rate. This result is primarily is due to little or lack of red meat consumption in their diet. Low meat consumption results in longer life.
Adopting a plant-based lifestyle not only benefits your health but also makes an impact in the world. Climate change is fast and coming, and everyone has a role to play in it. Agricultural animal rearing, as observed, has a larger carbon footprint compared to cars and other machines.
The only way you can impact and prevent pollution, water scarcity, land use, and hunger are by joining the movement and adopting a better lifestyle. You don’t have to go all-in at once; that might be overwhelming for some people. Start by cutting the number of times you consume meat per week and keep going from there.
Your efforts might seem small, but they affect the world we live in. our healths are also of the utmost importance, and since we’ve seen how adopting a plant-based lifestyle impacts it, we should aim to consume more plants and maybe someday, be entirely vegan.
Written By: Catherine Kakenya