In recent years, vegetarianism and veganism have been more and more popular, especially among younger generations. Everyone has their own reasons for switching to these diets, but many people make the decision due to animal cruelty concerns and personal health choices. Although these are both valid reasons to make a diet change, the benefit on the environment is a significant motive that often flies under the radar.
In a time when climate change is at the forefront of political and public concerns, interestingly enough, many people do not realize the immense positive impact that primarily plant-based eating can have on the environment.
Why does my diet make a difference?
You may be wondering how exactly cutting out meat and dairy can make any real change environmentally, but you would be surprised. According to a research article from Science, giving up meat and dairy is the most effective way a person can reduce their environmental impact. It is also important to note that the impact of animal products far exceeds the impact of vegetable substitutes.
The meat and dairy industries contribute tremendously to greenhouse gas emissions. The United Nations reports that livestock accounts for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions, with beef and dairy production making up two-thirds of this percentage. Pig meat, buffalo milk and meat, chicken meat and eggs, and small ruminant milk and meat, are also major contributors to the greenhouse gas emissions coming from this industry.
It can be easy to tell yourself that as an individual, you cannot make an impact to slow climate change, but cutting down your personal meat and dairy intake has proven to make a difference. By switching to vegetarianism or veganism, your own environmental impact will be greatly reduced. Even though you can only make the choice for yourself, the more people who do will reduce the amount of environmental damage caused by the meat and dairy industries.
How can I make the switch?
It is understandable that for many people, it can be difficult to give up foods produced by the meat and dairy industries. Meat is a great source of protein, and dairy products such as milk and yogurt provide people with essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium. Despite these products being a staple in the diets of many, it is becoming increasingly easier for people to make the switch to vegetarianism or veganism.
The wide range of meat and dairy substitutes are only continuing to expand. Alternative options to milk, such as oat milk, are becoming more accessible and mainstream. Although some of these substitutes, including almond milk, are also questionable in terms of their environmental impact, the various options will continue to improve as time goes on. According to BBC’s environmental impact calculator, oat milk is not only the most environmentally friendly alternative milk but also has a great taste.
When it comes to meat, alternative options are far more extensive than dairy alternatives. Brands such as Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, and Morning Star Farms have revolutionized vegetarianism and veganism. They have made it incredibly easier for the people who choose these diets to get their daily protein intake in a healthy way. They also make these diets easier for people who love the taste of meat products but want to make the switch.
Not everyone is able to switch to vegetarianism or veganism, but if it is accessible for you, it is an amazing way to do your part in the efforts to slow climate change. There are also plenty of health benefits that come with making this switch, and it is a personal way to stand up to animal cruelty. Ultimately, it will come down to the meat and dairy industries to slow down their own production rates, but this is a way to contribute to the progress.
Are you a vegetarian or vegan? Tell us why you made the switch by tweeting us @VALLEYmag!