We’ve handed the blog over to our students today! Minna provides us with some of the main reasons why it’s good to go plant-powered! If you or your team would like to contribute to the Green Impact blog, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
I cannot claim to be a vegan. However, since I began researching the myriad of benefits associated with a vegan lifestyle, I have begun to slowly make the transition. I gave up eating meat three years ago. Despite finding the switch from a carnivorous diet to a plant based one fairly straightforward, I struggle with making the leap to veganism. Whilst I happily drink non-dairy alternatives and avoid many animal products, I am definitely guilty of the occasional milk chocolate bar or digestive biscuit! Yet, I do believe a vegan diet is something to strive for. Hopefully, for any sceptical readers, I shall convince you of this.
It might be an abstract idea that what we put on our plate impacts heavily upon the environment. Certainly, before undertaking my Biology degree I was not aware of this relationship. However, diet and environmental health are intrinsically linked 1. It is impossible to tackle the depth of this association in this blog, so I am going to break it down into three main points: emissions, water, and soil erosion. Firstly, farm animals release emissions which ultimately fuel climate change. Dairy cows contribute roughly 20% to the total UK atmospheric methane emissions 2. Put simply, their poo pollutes our planet. Water use for raising farm animals is enormous, with one kilo of beef using between 13,000 litres 3 and 100,000 litres 4 of water. Lastly, our soil also suffers. Erosion of our valuable topsoil from intensive farming methods threatens our food security, as well as releasing a vast amount of carbon dioxide 5 and destroying the homes of many of our crucial ecosystem engineers (such as worms and fungi). ‘The Inconvenient Truth’ is a must watch to fully appreciate the extent of this.
Humans are responsible for substantially altering the Earth 6. Whilst many of the changes we make are fantastic, and to be celebrated, it does present us with a problem. As we dominate the earth, we tip natural systems out of balance meaning that feeding a growing population becomes increasingly difficult 7. To meet our current demands, animals are intensively farmed. This results in these creatures often experiencing short, painful and unnatural tenures on Earth. The depth of this is too great for my blog, but I would recommend watching ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ as a starting point to explore this further. Hint – have a box of tissues at hand!
This is perhaps the most bizarre idea of all. How can reducing your meat/animal product intake have a bearing on the quality of life of other individuals? To start, we waste a huge amount of meat. To be precise, 1.5 million sausages each day end up in UK bins (Love Food, Hate Waste). Is this right? Considering that a high meat intake is associated with numerous diseases (WHO facts), and that many people in the world go without, should we be making these dietary choices and then throwing them away? It is definitely something to think about. Considering the vast amounts of resource that animal products require to reach our shelves, it does beg the question that the Western diet uses an unfair proportion of our planets finite resources. This ultimately leaves less for others.
This is of course not an exhaustive list, but hopefully something to mull over. We have the power to help people, the planet and its animals by making informed, calculated choices about what we eat.
The statistics speak for themselves. If everyone became a vegetarian, global greenhouse gas emissions would in fact be negative by 2050 1. As individuals, we have a chance to make a real difference by simply adapting the way in which we eat.
- Tilman, D. and Clark, M., 2014. Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health. Nature, 515(7528), p.518
- Garnsworthy, P.C., 2004. The environmental impact of fertility in dairy cows: a modelling approach to predict methane and ammonia emissions. Animal Feed Science and Technology, 112(1-4), pp.211-223.
- Food and Agriculture Organisation. 22nd March 2007. FAO urges action to cope with increasing water scarcity. Rome. http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2007/1000520/index.Html
- Pimental, D., Houser, J., Preiss, E., White, O., Fang, O., Mesnick, L., Barsky, T., Tariche, J.S. and Alpert, S. 1997. Water Resources: Agriculture, the Environment, and Society. Bioscience. 47 (2), 97-106.
- Van Oost, K., Quine, T.A., Govers, G., De Gryze, S., Six, J., Harden, J.W., Ritchie, J.C., McCarty, G.W., Heckrath, G., Kosmas, C. and Giraldez, J.V., 2007. The impact of agricultural soil erosion on the global carbon cycle. Science, 318(5850), pp.626-629.
- Vitousek, P M;Mooney, HA;Lubchenco, J;Melillo, J M Science (Washington); Jul 1997; 277, 5325; SciTech Premium Collection pg. 494
- Godfray, H.C.J., Beddington, J.R., Crute, I.R., Haddad, L., Lawrence, D., Muir, J.F., Pretty, J., Robinson, S., Thomas, S.M. and Toulmin, C., 2010. Food security: the challenge of feeding 9 billion people. science, 327(5967), pp.812-818.