7 Reasons a Plant-Based Diet is Good For You and The Planet
Emissions from our food supply chain abound. A plant-based diet can help both you and the planet.
There are 7.9 billion of us on this planet, and it takes a lot of food to feed everyone. The food supply chain accounts for 26% of greenhouse gases (GHG) worldwide. If we’re going to tackle climate change, we need to look towards our food production.
And the best way to address the climate change problem—although not always the easiest—is to switch to a plant-based diet.
1. What is a plant-based diet?
While “plant-based” and “vegan” are sometimes used interchangeably, they are, in fact, different. People who identify as vegan avoid all animal products, including eggs, milk, and honey. This is often done for moral or ethical reasons involving animals.
A plant-based diet, on the other hand, is less about moral objections but instead about focusing on eating plants and reducing or eliminating the amount of meat one consumes in the name of personal health.
A plant-based diet allows room for fish and poultry, eggs, milk, whole grains, healthy oils, honey, the occasional piece of red meat, and is heavily reliant on nuts, beans, and vegetables. Moral or ethical notions regarding animals play no role in this decision.
Now that we’re tuned into the differences between plant-based and vegan diets, here’s why you should consider going plant-based.
2. A Plant-Based Diet is Good For Your Heart
Your doctor has probably never said, “I want you to eat more steak and bacon.” And that’s for good reason. While the reasoning is still sometimes debated, eating red meat has consistently been shown to raise one’s risk of heart disease.
3. Eating Plants is Good For Your Age
4. Cows Fart A Lot
And burp. And those farts and burps produce up to 320 liters of methane per day per cow. To top it off, methane traps heat at a far greater clip than carbon dioxide, 28 times over a 100 year period. (To be fair, burping produces more methane than farting.) In short, if you eat less beef, we need fewer cows, which will produce less methane.
▴ The U.S. is home to 94.4 million cattle and calves as of 2020
There are researchers studying different feeds to see if they can get cows to make less methane. Hemp feed may be an option soon enough.
5. Cow Poop A Lot, Too
Have you ever stood in a pasture of grazing cows? Watch where you step. Unfortunately, only 1% of beef cattle raised in the US are pasture-raised for their entire lifespan. The rest spend time in a concentrated feedlot. These feedlots use huge amounts of groundwater and manure is often mismanaged. That’s what happens when you have so many cows in such a small area. And mishandling manure often leads to water pollution.
6. Fresh Water is Becoming More of a Scarcity
As mentioned above, cow manure often pollutes water. But cows also use a lot of freshwater—1800 gallons of water per pound of beef. And while pasture-raised cows often consume rainwater, industrial-raised cows typically consume groundwater, depleting the supply. However, they aren’t the only heavy water consumers.
It takes 902 gallons of water to grow a pound of almonds, and 1092 gallons to grow a pound of pistachios. Peanuts, however, only require 59 gallons of water per pound produced. Not to mention, the first two grow primarily in perennially drought-stricken California.
So while nuts may be within the parameters of a plant-based diet, not all of them are equal on the environmentally-friendly scale.
7. It’s What You Eat, Not Where It Comes From
A plant-based diet with little to no packaging—especially plastic packaging—will have a far greater positive impact on the environment than any other change. A lot has been made about eating food that is locally grown. And it sounds reasonable. Transportation contributes to emissions. If you’re eating food grown nearby, you’ll lessen your impact on the environment.
▴ Check out our guide to sustainable grocery shopping
But climate science is constantly learning. And according to Our World In Data, part of Oxford University, transportation is not even close to the greatest emitter in the food supply chain.
Yes, shipping ground nuts across an ocean will emit less GHG than raising a herd of cattle and selling it locally.
Land use, water use, animal feed, processing, packaging, and retail all play a role in the amount of resources used, the pollution and GHG created, and the overall impact on the environment.
What you eat, and whether it’s covered in plastic packaging (with hundreds of years in its lifecycle) will make the greatest difference on the environment.
Do What’s Best For You
These are just a few of the reasons why it might make sense to switch to a plant-based diet. But you don’t need to go cleaning out your fridge and your freezer. Perhaps try one plant-based meal per week and go from there. If you need a starting point, our snack bars are plant-based.
Article by Impact Snacks Contributor, Nate Tyler | Website