How’s this for empowering: A new study has confirmed that switching to plant-based eating can help reduce diet-related emissions, water pollution, and land use by a whopping 75% – drastically reducing the environmental damage caused by food production.
The peer-reviewed Oxford University study is being hailed as the most comprehensive analysis of dietary impacts to date, and corroborates previous findings that going vegan is the single most powerful choice we can make as individuals if we want to help protect our planet.
This reinforces the message that the amount of meat we consume is strongly related [to] our environmental footprint … Cutting down the amount of meat and dairy in your diet can make a big difference.
– Prof Peter Scarborough, Oxford University, research lead
Researchers drew from the actual diets of more than 55,000 people (including vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters) and analysed them alongside environmental data from more than 38,000 farms around the world – a mammoth effort that has resulted in some pretty compelling conclusions for eco-conscious foodies.
Results showed that consuming even 100g of meat a day produces 75% more climate-heating gas emissions than opting for plant-based alternatives instead.
In fact, the biggest difference found in the study was that methane emissions, the second largest driver of climate change after carbon dioxide emissions, were 93% lower for vegans compared to high meat eaters. This is because methane is produced in enormous amounts every year by the billions of animals bred for food around the world. (A single cow produces around 120kg of methane each year!)
The study also showed that switching from a meat-heavy diet to plant-based helps reduce water use by 54%, and cut biodiversity loss by a massive 66% – for the simple reason that it protects wild animals and their habitats from the pollution and land clearing caused by animal agriculture.
And these results actually debunk a common misconception about vegan food, too …
Although select plant products are sometimes criticised for their resource use (like almond milk, for example), this study found that “even in the worst case scenarios”, plant-based diets are still far better for the environment than animal-based diets overall – regardless of how certain foods are produced 🙌
Ah, science. What would we do without you to make everything so clear-cut?
At a time when leading health and environmental organisations – and even the United Nations – are calling for wealthy countries to drastically reduce their meat consumption to help preserve the earth, research like this is a potent reminder that every single veg meal makes a difference.