Caoimhe Coleman shares the environmental benefits of a vegan lifestyle.
Don’t worry, I’m not here to be “that vegan”. But I have been vegan for over two years, and
I’ve learned a few things along the way that I’d like to share. Everyone knows how we can help the environment: it’s been a hot topic for years. “Reduce, reuse, recycle.” We are practically saying it in our sleep. However, what you may not know is that one of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to adopt a vegan lifestyle. Animal agriculture is a greater contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.
Worryingly, our livestock industry is showing no signs of slowing down. Let’s take chicken as an example: global chicken production has multiplied by thirteen since the 1960s. We’re producing more animals and even more crops to feed them. This in turn means more land is being dedicated to animal agriculture and more water is being used to sustain this land. Statistics vary, but it’s safe to say that at least three times more water is required for a meat-eaters diet vs. a vegan diet.
For example, 15,500L of water is required to produce 1kg of beef, whereas only 250L is required to produce 1kg of potatoes. Currently, global farming uses 70% of the planet’s accessible freshwater. This is not sustainable.
However, studies have found that a vegan diet requires one-third less land needed for a conventional Western diet: 3.5 billion humans could live off the food currently used to feed livestock. Animal agriculture has taken over 45% of all the earth’s land, and is a leading cause of species extinction, ocean ‘dead zones’, water pollution, habitat destruction and terrifyingly, 91% of all Amazon Rainforest destruction. Every year the livestock industry produces 32,000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide – 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions, in other words.
On top of that, livestock is responsible for 65% of all human related emissions of nitrous oxide, a gas which has 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide and stays in the atmosphere for 150 years.
People who live a vegan lifestyle use 50% less carbon dioxide, 1/11 of the oil, 1/13 of the water and 1/18 of the land that a meat-eater uses. Every day, a vegan saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45lbs of grain, 30 square feet of forested land and the life of one animal. Don’t freak out, though; you don’t have to go vegan overnight! I didn’t. If you do that, then good on you, but any small changes you make can make a difference. Try doing “meat-free Mondays”, going vegetarian, or going vegan for just a few days a week. Trust me, going vegan is the easiest it has ever been since there’s vegan versions of literally everything these days, and it doesn’t have to be expensive either: you just have to be savvy about it. So, give it a go – the planet will thank you for it.