Beyond the Health Benefits of a Plant-Strong Diet – Part 1: The Environment
Eating a plant-strong diet makes us feel invincible. We are fueling our bodies with the most wholesome, nutritious (and incredibly tasty!!) food there is. We are preventing and reversing heart disease, T2 diabetes, cancer, and numerous other diseases. We are living life full of energy, always radiating a happy glow of plants. And we love being advocates of the power of plants to provide optimal nutrition and overall health. But while your health is extremely important, it is not the only thing that a plant-strong diet benefits. A plant-strong diet also promotes a sustainable environment and saves countless animals from immense cruelty and suffering. These positive impacts are really important too and we want to spread awareness of the profound benefits a plant-strong diet can have beyond ourselves. It is amazing how much good can result from simply what is on the end of your fork - it makes us feel like superheroes championing health, a sustainable environment, and a compassionate, animal-friendly world.
Choosing a plant-based diet is the single most effective contribution you can make toward saving the environment. The food and drink a person consumes each day has the most influence on one’s ecological footprint. Simply choosing to fill your plate with plants instead of animal products makes more of a difference than buying a hybrid car and installing solar panels. This is because raising animals for food production is responsible for contributing to serious environmental problems – global warming, land degradation, deforestation, excessive water and energy use, pollution, declining biodiversity and species populations, and world hunger.
Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are responsible for the vast majority of global warming and factory farms are major contributors to these greenhouse gas emissions. Each person who exchanges a meat-based diet for a plant-based diet reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 tons per year. The EPA shows that the largest producer of methane emissions in the US is livestock production, and methane is 20x more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide is even more powerful than carbon dioxide (300x more powerful!) and meat, dairy, and egg industries are responsible for 65 percent of these emissions worldwide, according to the UN.
Livestock production doesn’t just pollute the air – the immense number of animals confined close together on factory farms also pollutes surrounding ecosystems with runoff from animal waste and chemicals used in feed production. Excessive fertilizer, pesticides, and antibiotics used in animal agriculture are destroying the habitats of countless organisms, contributing to a loss of biodiversity and species’ abundance. Besides the additional land it is destroying with pollution, raising animals for food production consumes an immense amount of land to begin with. According to the UN, 30 percent of the earth’s entire land surface is now used for livestock. At the same time, this land is being eroded and degraded because of the commercial nature and high demands of factory farms. The soil becomes terribly worn down, leading to more fertilizer and water needing to be used, further exacerbating the runoff problem, and ultimately requiring more and more land to be plowed each year.
Raising animals for food production also contributes to water scarcity. Half of all the water used in the US is for animal production alone. By not eating just a single pound of meat, more water is saved than by not taking a shower for six months! The massive amount of water used by the animal industry is in addition to the water that it pollutes. According to the EPA, 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states have been polluted by cattle, chicken, and pig excrement. And let’s not forget about the oceans – they are in danger too. Excessive fertilizer runoff is creating dead zones where there is not enough oxygen to sustain life. Commercial fishing methods are destroying the coral reefs and the ocean floor, destroying the habitats of countless species. Many species are facing extinction due to this ecological damage and over-fishing of the oceans.
Animal agriculture is an extremely inefficient method of food production because farm animals consume far more calories and water than the amount of calories they produce for human consumption. It is much more effective to consume plants directly, instead of consuming animal products that required massive amounts of food to begin with. A staggering 70 percent of the grain and cereals grown in the US are fed to livestock animals. The world’s cattle alone consume enough food to feed 8.7 billion people, which is more than the entire human population of the world. With world hunger increasing and the population of the planet becoming very concerning, it is the most sustainable choice to eat plants directly instead of animals.
Every time you sit down to a meal, remember that what you eat matters. And it goes far beyond yourself and your own personal health. Not eating animal products is the single most effective contribution you can make toward saving the environment – the Earth thanks you. There is a much greater good you are contributing to while eating a plant-strong diet. And stay tuned for even more amazing and compassionate benefits next week!!
Tree huggers for life!
-The College Greens