Earth Day is the perfect time to consider veganism. Everyone's looking for eco-friendly tips, and going vegan is the most important thing you can do for the environment, next to having fewer children.
While veganism is an entire philosophy and lifestyle based on avoiding harm to all sentient beings, some people follow a vegan diet for health or environmental reasons. To ethical vegans, the health and environmental benefits are secondary to animal rights concerns. A vegan diet consists of plant-based foods, such as beans, grains, fruits and vegetables; with no meat, fish, eggs, dairy, honey or gelatin.
Twenty years ago, it seemed that only animal rights groups were talking about veganism and the environment; now environmental groups and mainstream scientists and organizations are starting to get it:
- The United Nations has been saying for years that animal agriculture is bad for the environment: "The livestock sector may well be the leading player in the reduction of biodiversity, since it is the major driver of deforestation, as well as one of the leading drivers of land degradation, pollution, climate change, overfishing, sedimentation of coastal areas and facilitation of invasions by alien species."
- Rutgers University's Agricultural Experiment Station says, "Eco-friendly foods in general, are plant foods. Overall, animal products are not "green" because they require intensive resources to produce. By eating lower on the food chain and savoring fresh veggies, fruit, grains, beans, nuts and seeds you are eating healthy and green."
- The Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club calls meat "A Hummer on a plate."
- Institutional food service provider Sodexo states, "Eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead of a hamburger for a simple reason: one sandwich can save 133 gallons of water and 24 square feet of land over a burger, and each one served will save 2.5 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, which is the same benefit as driving a hybrid car for half a day."
- The City of Lansing, Michigan's Go Green Initiative says, "Meat is the most resource-intensive food on the table and eating less of it can be the single most "green" move a person can make. Producing meat requires huge amounts of water, grain, land, and other inputs including hormones and antibiotics, and leads to pollution of soil, air, and water. A pound of beef requires around 12,000 gallons of water to produce, compared to 60 gallons for a pound of potatoes. Going vegetarian or vegan is a profoundly meaningful environmental choice so if you're a meat eater, try cutting out just one serving of meat each week."
Did you know:
- Approximately 72% of the cereal grains grown in the U.S. feed livestock, not people, and the world's livestock eats 80% of the world soybean crop and more than half of the world's corn crop. Learn more about how animal agriculture is a waste of resources.
- In the U.S., farmed animals produce about 130 times more excrement than humans. Learn more about animal agriculture and pollution.
- The United Nations issued a report on animal agriculture, and found that the livestock sector produces more greenhouse gases than any other sector, including transportation? Learn more about The United Nations' report, "Livestock's Long Shadow."
- Free-range, organic and local meat are not the answer. Free-range and organic meat take up even more resources than factory farmed meat, and Oxfam found that how the meat is produced is more important than how far it's transported. Learn more about Free-Range, Organic, and Local Meat.
- In a 2006 study published by an international team of 14 scientists, data indicates that the world’s supply of seafood will run out by 2048. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that “over 70% of the world’s fish species are either fully exploited or depleted.” Learn more about what's wrong with eating fish.
Because the human population continues to increase, going vegan will become even more important for future generations. The earth cannot continue to support a meat-based diet for billions of people. The most environmentally responsible diet is a vegan diet.