A Guide to Veganism: How Your Diet is Contributing to the Environment

You may know from previous articles that there are a lot of things that you as an individual can do to help reduce climate change and help the environment as a whole. Going vegan can definitely be added to this list! By reading the rest of this article, you can learn about how eating meat is actually contributing to global warming and negatively impacting the environment, and what you can do to individually change this. This article is not meant to shame anyone for eating meat or make anyone feel bad, it is simply written as a guide to anyone who might want to start going vegan for whatever reason. 

Negative Impacts of Animal Agriculture 

The number and amount of resources that go into meat production and general domestication are enormous. For starters, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has stated that nearly half of all the water in America is used in raising animals for food. More specifically, it takes nearly 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat whereas growing one pound of wheat only takes 25 gallons of water. The list continues: one pound of beef takes about 1,800 gallons whereas corn only needs 108 gallons, etc. Therefore, stopping the consumption of animal products fundamentally reduces your water footprint on the planet and allows you to help save thousands of gallons of freshwater. 

Not only is meat consumption causing an excess of water to be wasted, but it is also one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions as it is responsible for nearly 18% of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Thousands of gallons of water that go towards bulking up the animals to slaughter them and the impact of this is the immeasurable amount of CO2 and methane that is released from the animals and their waste. Researchers calculated that if every single American stopped eating meat, the environmental impact would be the equivalent of removing 60 million cars off the road. This suggests that the emissions of greenhouse gasses due to meat production is much larger than most believe, and by individually choosing to stop eating meat, you could drastically reduce your carbon footprint on the planet. 

While meat production and consumption are the most damaging to the environment, all animal products are harmful and contribute to climate change. The dairy industry, for example, is not only inhumane but also globally emits about 4% of all human-caused emissions alone. Studies have also shown that “in the U.S., every gallon of milk consumed results in greenhouse gases equivalent to 17.6 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.” Numbers such as this align with all animal products, including fish and eggs. Although they aren’t as significant as the numbers associated with meat production, cutting all these foods out of your diet can cause a significant environmental change in the long run. 

cows, agriculture, rural life, lowland shoe, black and white, heifers, milk,  dairy | Pikist

Why Should I Go Vegan? 

It may seem like one person choosing to go vegan wouldn’t make much of a difference, but this mindset can be dangerous. As previously stated, just a single pound of meat requires about 2,400 gallons of water and can emit nearly 14.8 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. By choosing to cut out all animal products, you can contribute to reducing this number and generally reducing your carbon and water footprint. Not only can you help save the environment, but you can also help save the animals. The way that domesticated animals are treated in order to become our food is more horrific than people may think. The dairy industry, for example, causes the cows that end up in this industry to suffer their entire lives. You can learn more about the cruelty and horror within this industry by looking at the list below. 

Tips for Going Vegan

  1. Educate yourself. Watch and read more about the cruelty of animal agriculture, the horrific impacts that it has on our planet, and how a vegan diet can impact your health. We have composed a list to get your research started: 
  • Well-known documentary Forks Over Knives:
https://www.forksoverknives.com/
  • Podcasts:

Main Street Vegan:

Food for Thought: The Joys and Benefits of Living with Compassion and Purpose: 

The Bearded Vegans:

  1. Start slow. Cutting out all animal products from your diet after being so used to eating them will be extremely difficult and might cause you to lose determination and go back to these foods. Starting by cutting out one thing at a time for some time can cause your body to adjust to the changes and will give you a better chance of staying vegan. 
  2. Find someone who inspires you. Finding a vegan blogger or nutritionist who inspires you can help motivate you to get started on your journey. Several bloggers also have vegan guides and recipes to help make your journey even easier. Here are a few vegan vloggers you might be interested in:
    1. Pick Up Limes – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCq2E1mIwUKMWzCA4liA_XGQ
    2. SweetPotatoSoul – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbmUfoOfNW04K9U7moSDDcw
    3. NikkiVegan – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXc8sao7QK8pm3g4vJpb5kg
    4. Simnett Nutrition – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpyhJZhJQWKDdJCR07jPY-Q

If you don’t find someone who inspires you, it might help to know that some of your favorite celebrities are actually vegan! Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Lizzo, Miley Cyrus, Beyonce, Kate Mara, Venus Williams, Ellen Pompeo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zac Efron, Madonna, Ellen Page, Liam Hemsworth, and Joaquin Phoenix are just a few popular celebrities who helping fight climate change by going vegan. Now it’s your turn! 

Works Cited

Finke, Photograph by Brian. “Eating Meat Has ‘Dire’ Consequences for the Planet, Says Report.” National Geographic, 16 Jan. 2019, www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/01/commission-report-great-food-transformation-plant-diet-climate-change/

Gustin, Georgina, et al. “Cows vs. Nuts: Who Gets to Be Called Milk, and Are They Climate Friendly?” InsideClimate News, 8 Nov. 2018, https://insideclimatenews.org/news/24012018/almond-soy-milk-non-dairy-climate-change-impact#:~:text=The%20dairy%20industry%20has%2C%20for,greenhouse%20gases%20equivalent%20to%2017.

“How Much Water Does It Take to Make One Steak?” PETA, 2 Apr. 2015, www.peta.org/videos/meat-wastes-water/

“Meat and the Environment.” PETA, 8 Jan. 2019, www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/meat-environment/

National Geographic Freshwater 101: Food, 18 June 2019, www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/food/

Nierenberg, Danielle, et al. “Meat’s Large Water Footprint: Why Raising Livestock and Poultry for Meat Is so Resource-Intensive.” Food Tank, 28 Nov. 2016, https://foodtank.com/news/2013/12/why-meat-eats-resources/#:~:text=Shock%20is%20reasonable%20after%20discovering,gallons%3B%20corn%20is%20108%20gallons.

Schiermeier, Quirin. “Eat Less Meat: UN Climate-Change Report Calls for Change to Human Diet.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 8 Aug. 2019, www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02409-7

Woodward, Aylin. “Researchers Calculated What Would Happen If the Entire US Stopped Eating Meat. It’d Be like Taking 60 Million Cars off the Road.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 11 Aug. 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/switch-from-meat-to-meatless-diet-environmental-benefits-2019-8#:~:text=The%20researchers%20calculated%20that%20if,of%20carbon%20dioxide%20every%20year. 

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