The Earth isn’t doing so well right now. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is increasing, trapping more heat energy and increasing the Earth’s temperature. Extreme weather, rising sea levels, later plant flowering seasons, and wildlife extinction are all things that are happening because of the changing environment, mostly due to human’s interactions with Earth.
As we humans try to find ways to be more sustainable, there’s been a lot of buzz about how different diets can be the answer to how we can reduce our impact on the environment. According to recent research summarized in this Forbes article, the best way to save our planet is by cutting meat and dairy out of our diets. “Meat and dairy provide only 18% of our calories and 37% of our protein, yet use up 83% of our farmland. Without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the U.S., China, the European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world.”
Raising livestock is the largest contributor of emissions globally, as well as one of the largest freshwater and land consuming activities. Raising livestock is also responsible for wildlife extinction, as land that used to house native species is being cleared to raise meat and milk producing livestock. Raising livestock also contributes to pollution, both in the air and in water.
Scientists have said that the best way to reduce your impact on the Earth is to switch your diet. Here are a few less impactful diets for you to try.
Plant based diets eliminate all animal products, like meat, dairy, eggs, fish, gelatin, and other products. Plant based diets also tend to avoid processed foods (white flour, refined sugar). Legumes, grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are all included in this diet, basically, anything that resembles a plant in its natural form can be eaten. Plant based dieters aren’t necessarily vegan; they can still wear or use animal products, like leather or beeswax.
Vegetarians don’t eat any meat, but do eat fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and nuts. Usually vegetarians cut meat for ethical reasons, but more and more people are choosing to become vegetarian because it’s better for the environment. Vegetarians also can consume animal byproducts like eggs and milk, but ovo-vegetarians don’t consume dairy and lacto-vegetarians don’t consume eggs.
The main difference between veganism and other plant based diets is that the vegan lifestyle goes beyond the diet; it goes into how the person lives their life. Veganism is a philosophy that involves ethics and politics in addition to diet, which is why most vegans tend to be animal rights activists. Vegans are entirely plant based and do not consume any animal byproducts (eating, wearing, using, etc.).
If you’re not ready to give up all animal proteins, try being pescatarian. Pescatarians add fish and seafood to a vegetarian diet. Fish tend to have a lot of good for you nutrients (talking about you, salmon) that some people want to keep in their diet without taking supplements. It’s a good way to start the journey to becoming vegetarian or vegan, as well as a way to blend the health benefits of plants and animal proteins together.
Changing what we eat has the power to slow the environmental changes the Earth is facing. By not consuming meat (or consuming less meat for those hard core carnivores, consider Meatless Monday), we can make sure that our planet doesn’t suffer anymore than it already has. We can be more sustainable. We can help save our home.
Also published on Medium.