In the age of rapid environmental changes, the choices we make about what we put on our plates have far-reaching consequences. As concerns about climate change, deforestation, and resource depletion continue to grow, individuals around the globe are seeking ways to align their lifestyles with a more sustainable and earth-friendly practices. One such dietary shift that has gained considerable attention is the move towards veganism. In this blog, we delve into the environmental impacts of embracing a plant-based lifestyle and ask the pivotal question: Is going vegan good for the earth?
Join us as we examine the various ways in which choosing plant-based foods can contribute to a greener, healthier planet. It’s time to understand how the simple act of adjusting our food choices can sow the seeds of positive change for the Earth we call home.
What is Veganism?
Veganism has its roots in various philosophical, ethical, and health-related movements throughout history. In fact, the term “vegan” was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson, one of the co-founders of the Vegan Society in the United Kingdom.
Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude as far as is possible and practicable all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans, and the environment.
The Benefits of Going Vegan for the earth
Going Vegan For A Healthier Lifestyle And Weight Management.
An adequately designed vegan diet can offer crucial nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, and antioxidants. Research indicates that opting for a plant-based diet might decrease the likelihood of developing heart disease, specific cancers, and type 2 diabetes. Conversely, individuals often discover that embracing a vegan diet aids in weight management, given that plant-based foods contain fewer calories in comparison to animal products.
Choosing a vegan lifestyle significantly helps the earth. The production of plant-based foods generally requires less land, water, and energy compared to raising animals for food. In 2015, it is approximated that the food system contributed to 18 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), constituting 34% of the total global GHG emissions for that year. Additionally, the food system is accountable for 70% of the Earth’s freshwater consumption and 78% of freshwater pollution.
The growth of animal agriculture frequently results in deforestation and the destruction of habitats, posing a threat to biodiversity. Furthermore, opting for a vegan diet reduces the demand for animal products. As a result, this contributes to the preservation of ecosystems and the protection of wildlife habitats.
Positive Impact On Climate Change
Meat and dairy specifically accounts for around 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to (FAO). The provided chart illustrates a comparison of the average greenhouse gas emissions generated per kilogram of various food products. This analysis comprehensively evaluates all aspects of food production. In fact, it encompasses factors such as the land needed for cultivation, the farming methods employed, and the stages of transportation and sale.
Greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram for different food groups.
Source: Science 2018.
The Downsides of going Vegan
While veganism is generally considered more environmentally friendly than a diet centered around animal products, there are still some considerations and potential downsides to be aware of:
- Monocropping and Intensive Agriculture
The production of certain plant-based foods, particularly monocrops like soy and corn, can contribute to issues such as monoculture, soil erosion, and depletion of nutrients in the soil. Intensive farming practices associated with large-scale plant agriculture can lead to environmental degradation.
Land Use For Plant-Based Agriculture
While plant-based diets typically necessitate less land than animal agriculture, the desire for specific crops can still result in deforestation and the destruction of habitats in particular areas. As an illustration, the heightened cultivation of soybeans, frequently utilised as a protein source in plant-based diets, may contribute to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. For example, in 2021, Spain imported 878,000 tonnes of soya from municipalities with at least 7 sq. km of hidden deforestation on soya farms.
Processing Of Vegan Alternatives
Some processed vegan products, such as meat substitutes and dairy alternatives, may undergo extensive processing and packaging, leading to increased energy use and waste generation. Research carried out under the Protein2Food project revealed that, under specific conditions, extruded plant-based meat substitutes might exhibit a carbon footprint remarkably similar to that of chicken meat. Moreover, concerning resource requirements such as land, energy, and water, these substitutes could potentially surpass those associated with chicken meat.(Detzel et al., 2021)
Global Demand For Exotic Foods
The increasing global demand for certain exotic plant-based foods can contribute to environmental issues. For example, the demand for quinoa has led to concerns about overharvesting and its social costs on local communities in the producing regions.
So, is going Vegan good for the earth?
In conclusion, the journey towards a vegan lifestyle emerges as a powerful and conscientious choice for the well-being of our earth. From reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigating deforestation and preserving biodiversity, going vegan could just be part of the gig that digs us out of this environmental crisis. Adopting a vegan diet aligns with the principles of sustainability and environmental stewardship. The evidence supporting the positive impact of veganism on earth is compelling. It is emphasises the interconnectedness of our dietary choices with the health of our ecosystems.
By embracing the manifold benefits of veganism, we not only foster personal health. But also become active participants in the collective endeavor to safeguard our planet for generations to come. It’s a journey that extends beyond our plates, influencing broader conversations about ethical consumption , and responsible living.
Transitioning towards a more sustainable and earth-friendly vegan lifestyle involves adopting a holistic approach that extends beyond individual dietary choices. Educating oneself about the environmental impacts of various food options and the benefits of plant-based diets is crucial for making informed decisions. On the other hand, we should advocate for plant-based diets and share information about veganism’s environmental advantages to foster awareness. We can also support sustainable agriculture by choosing locally sourced, organic, and minimally processed plant-based foods. Which helps reduce ecological footprints.
It’s important to remember that the shift towards a more sustainable lifestyle is gradual. The consistent changes contribute to a meaningful impact over time.
achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how they link to Veganism and its impact on the earth
While veganism itself is not explicitly mentioned in the SDGs, the practices associated with plant-based diets align with several of these goals. Here are some ways in which veganism links to specific SDGs and promotes a more sustainable future for the Earth:
- Zero Hunger (SDG2). Veganism contributes to achieving zero hunger by promoting more efficient use of resources. Plant-based diets generally require fewer resources such as land, water, and energy compared to animal agriculture. Redirecting resources away from livestock farming could potentially help address food scarcity and hunger.
- Good Health and Well-being (SDG3). A well-planned vegan diet can support good health by reducing the risk of chronic diseases. It also emphasises the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are essential for overall well-being.
- Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG6). Plant-based diets typically have a lower water footprint compared to diets that centre around animal products. By choosing plant-based foods, individuals contribute to water conservation and sustainable water management.
- Climate Action (SDG13). Animal agriculture is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Transitioning to a vegan lifestyle can reduce the demand for livestock farming. Hence , leading to lower carbon emissions and contributing to efforts to mitigate climate change.
- Life on Land (SDG15). Animal agriculture is a major driver of deforestation and habitat destruction. By reducing the demand for animal products, veganism can help preserve biodiversity, protect natural ecosystems, and promote sustainable land use.
- Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG12). Veganism aligns with the principles of responsible consumption and production. By encouraging the consumption of plant-based foods that generally have a lower environmental impact compared to animal products. It also promotes the reduction of food waste and a more sustainable food system.
A Thrivable Framework
At THRIVE, our framework extends beyond sustainability to embrace the concept of “thrivability”. The THRIVE Framework examines issues and evaluates potential solutions that can promote sustainability in our daily practices and lifestyle. Similar to what has been discussed in the above paragraphs about how being vegan is good for the Earth. The THRIVE platform is scale-linked, values-based, context-based, and science-based, informed by the natural sciences. Register for our Thrivability Matters Webinar Series where we address the challenges of sustainable development. You can follow our informative blog and extensive podcast series. Also, you can sign up for our newsletter to receive regular updates.