Earth Day is April 22! What a wonderful opportunity to bring awareness to our every day habits and think about how we can make small changes to create a BIG impact.
Last year, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee suggested that eating a plant-based diet is not only better for health, but also the environment. Their report stated,
"The organically grown vegan diet had the lowest estimated impact on resources and ecosystem quality, and the average Italian diet had the greatest projected impact,” according to the report. “Beef was the single food with the greatest projected impact on the environment; other foods estimated to have high impact included cheese, milk, and seafood."
Even if you are not vegan, please take note that even the smallest changes can make a big difference. For example if you substitute vegetables or a plant-based protein for meat for just one meal a day you can create positive change. Or, if you decide to jump on board with Meatless Mondays, eating all plant-based foods for one day a week, you are making a huge difference. So don't think it needs to be all or nothing or your doomed. Yes, being vegan benefits your health, the environment and animals. However, simply cutting back on meat, poultry, fish and dairy can create considerable benefits for your health, the environment and animals. The following facts were adapted from Cowspiracy. Check out their site for more details and definitely see the film if you have not done so yet!
1. WATER: Animal agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of water consumption in the United States and 23-30% of all the fresh water in the world.
- 2,500 gallons of water is needed to product 1 lb of beef
- 1,000 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 gallon of milk
- 900 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 lb of cheese
- 477 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 lb of eggs
- The amount of gallons of water needed to produce 1 lb of vegetables, legumes, fruits or grains ranges from 34 gallons/lb (broccoli) to almost 300 gallons/lb for rice
2. GREENHOUSE GASES: Livestock and their byproducts are responsible for more than 51% of worldwide CO2 greenhouse gas emissions. Methane, produced from an animal's digestion, has a global warming potential of almost 86 times that of CO2 on a 20-year time frame. Livestock is also responsible for 65% of human-related nitrous oxide, which is 296 more potent than CO2 and can stick around our environment for 150 years.
3. LAND: Over 45% of the earth's land is used for animal agriculture. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and destruction of habitats.
4. WASTE: Animal agriculture produces 130 times more waste than humans in the United States alone. More animal waste equals more methane and faster climate change.
5. OCEANS: Talk about an unsustainable practice, consider this: we could see a depleted ocean by the year 2048. For every pound of fish caught, five pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded. As many as 40% of fish caught each year are discarded. It is estimated that as many as 650,000 whales, dolphins and seals are killed every year from fishing vessels and 40-50 million sharks are killed in fishing nets and lines.
6. RAINFORESTS: Up to 91% of Amazon destruction is from animal agriculture. Clearing land for animal agriculture is leading to the death of wildlife and species extinction. It also contributes further to climate change with the release of CO2 as land is cleared.
7. HUMANITY: There are currently over 7 billion humans on this planet with a billion of them going hungry and another billion suffering from hidden hunger while others over consume. Sadly, over 70% of the grain grown in the world is to feed animals, contributing to global hunger.
Whatever your conviction might be for eating more plants and less meat (health, environment or animals) know that you are contributing to sustainable practices for the planet when you opt for plant-based choices. You're saving water, land and rainforests; reducing waste; and supporting the fight for hunger when you choose local, organic plant-based food.