Going vegetarian is a decision that doesn’t just affect you. There is plenty of evidence that shows a vegetarian diet is actually beneficial for the environment and our planet as well.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN, raising livestock produces more greenhouse gases than transportation globally. Livestock produce CO2, one of the most common greenhouse gases, but are actually responsible for producing even more of other, more dangerous gases. Livestock raised for human use produce 65% of nitrous oxide and 37% of methane produced via human activity. According to the FAO, nitrous oxide possesses 296 times the Global Warming Potential of the more commonly known CO2, while methane is 23 times more warming than CO2. Livestock also accounts for 64% of ammonia, a major contributor to damaging acid rain.
The impact of livestock goes beyond the pollutants, though. The need for more grazing land for livestock has increased the clearing of forests and the FAO reports that 70% of former forest land in the Amazon has been cleared for livestock. Livestock also uses more resources. According to PETA, a cow consumes as much as 50 gallons of water per day and it takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce just 1 pound of beef. It only takes 180 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of wheat flour. Livestock occupy 70% of all agricultural land and 30% of the overall land surface of the planet, according to an FAO report. They also use 8% of the water consumed by human uses.
As we search for ways to counteract the effects of climate change, the focus has long been on reforestation and reduction of CO2 emissions. Encouraging a widespread switch to a vegetarian diet could be another key element in our fight against climate change. Reducing demand for meat would cut down on methane emissions much more easily than reducing CO2 emissions through other means. As California-based nonprofit EarthSave.org reports, hypothetically there could even be a 100% reduction in methane with a negligible impact, whereas massive reductions in CO2 are nearly impossible for economical reasons. Methane also leaves the atmosphere in just 8 years, so large scale reductions in its emissions could yield quick results in cooling the planet.
Even a small reduction in your consumption of meat can make a difference. Try instituting a day each week where you don’t consumer any meat, like Meatless Mondays. Once one day becomes routine, increase it to two days, and before you know it you’ll be eating vegetarian more days than not. The planet will thank you for it.