Is Veganism The Key To A Sustainable Future?

The trend of turning vegan has taken over the internet. In the past few years, a lot of people, including celebrities, have quit eating animal-based foods. The idea of plant-based meat has been growing steadily for the past couple of years. Apart from providing many health benefits to our bodies, the vegan diet is considered good for the environment based on many recent reports. According to the UN's IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change, changing to a plant-based diet as opposed to one heavy on meat and other animal products has an excellent possibility of lowering carbon footprints, limiting climate change, and helping to improve human health. 

What Is A Vegan Diet?

In simple words, it is basically a diet that is exclusively based on plants. Vegans avoid eating eggs, meat, dairy, and other animal-based products. It is promoted mainly for health, environmental, and ethical reasons. According to Healthline, following a vegan diet can help you control weight, regulate blood sugar, and improve kidney health. However, a poorly planned vegan diet may lead to a deficiency of essential nutrients. Some popular nutrient-rich foods for a plant-based diet are legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and seaweed.  

How Does The Vegan Diet Impact The Environment?

According to a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), livestock production is responsible for approximately 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The report also mentions that "Meat production requires large amounts of energy and emits more greenhouse gas emissions than growing and consuming vegetables and fruits." A plant-based diet, on the other hand, is much more sustainable. It requires fewer resources to produce, and it does not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. It suggests that going on a plant-based diet can save 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide per year. This is a significant amount, and it can help make a difference in the fight against climate change.

While the United Nations Environment Programme says, "Animal products, both meat and dairy, in general, require more resources and cause higher emissions than plant-based alternatives," the World Health Organisation agrees that reducing livestock herds would also reduce emissions of methane, which is the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide.  

Apart from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a vegan diet can also help conserve water. According to a report by the University Of Waterloo, livestock uses a significant amount of fresh water to sustain itself as compared to plant-based food, which is one of the major causes of water scarcity in some parts of the world. Even dairy products use a large amount of water for their production and preparation for human consumption. "It takes almost 1,000 gallons of water to produce just one gallon of milk", the report further added. 

 The Latest Oxford Study Findings

The newest study was conducted on 55,000 participants based in the UK for over 12 months at the University of Oxford. The journal stated that the participants’ dietary data, i.e., what they ate or drank, were linked to five key measures: greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, water pollution, and biodiversity loss. The result was published in a journal called Nature Food, which said that vegans have just 30% of the environmental impact as compared to high-meat eaters.  

According to the Medical Sciences Division of the University of Oxford, another crucial finding of the study was that "compared to high meat eaters, vegans had just 25% of the dietary impact for land use, 46% for water use, 27% for water pollution, and 34% for biodiversity. Even low-meat diets had only about 70% of the impact across most environmental measures of high-meat diets." So, it is not necessary to go fully vegan or even vegetarian; just take a small step, and it can make a big difference to our planet.