You are probably wondering how a vegan lifestyle can help solve environmental problems. How can your diet affect environmental issues? How can a plant-based lifestyle help with greenhouse gas emissions? Well, there is more to it than ‘meats’ the eye! Some experts would even go to the extent and say that going vegan is the most effective way to save the planet. But before we jump into it, let us look into what it takes to become vegan.
Let us take a look at the FAQs of people who want to choose the vegan route:
- What Happens to Your Body When You Switch to A Vegan Diet?
According to experts, nutritionists, and vegans, the body will undergo all sorts of changes when transitioning to a vegan lifestyle. The changes might shock you in the first few weeks but will be beneficial for you in the long run.
Here are some notable changes: (a) clearer skin or skin breakout. You can either have better skin or more acne. Most of those who transition will have clearer skin. The ones who experience skin breakout might have this temporarily. In other cases, skin breakout can be due to allergic reactions to soy, nut, and other plant-based diets.
(b) Weight change. You can either lose weight or gain it. Legumes, nuts, soy can make you lose weight, but French fries and deep-fried onion rings will make you gain extra pounds.
(c) Fatigue. Experiencing fatigue can be normal in the first few weeks. The body is getting rid of toxins and healing itself. But if you often experience fatigue after six months into the vegan lifestyle, then you probably are doing something wrong. Consult a dietitian or a vegetarian expert.
- Are there different types of vegetarian lifestyle?
Yes! There are different vegan lifestyles. Let us not go into the details of each type. The most common types of vegans are in it for these reasons: ethical, plant-based, raw, HCLF, and environmentally conscious vegans. All these types of vegan seek a way of life that excludes all forms of cruelty to animals. The Vegan Society defines veganism as a step ahead of vegetarianism. They avoid all animal products like dairy, egg, and honey to name a few.
- Is it worth being a vegetarian?
According to a UK study, about 11% of the UK has tried being a vegan. That is about half a million vegans. There are notable benefits in choosing a vegan lifestyle, both physically and environmentally. Yes. It is worth it! There is no harm in trying. (Literally, no harm to animals in trying!)
- Can going vegan help the environment?
Quick answer: YES!
How Going Vegan Helps the Environment
Lesser Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Citing Joseph Poore from Oxford, he said: “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use, and water use,” He further adds, “It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” he said, as these only cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Joseph Poore is the lead researcher and author of the Oxford Study that examined 40 agricultural products analysis data from about 40,000 animal farms in 119 countries. His research article is published in Science Magazine entitled: Reducing Food’s Environmental Impacts Through Producers and Consumers.
According to this Oxford research, an individual can reduce one’s carbon footprint by up to 73% by being vegan. Cutting on meat and dairy products has a direct impact on greenhouse gases emission. The impact of a vegan lifestyle goes further than cows producing methane gas but impacts meat production. We consume a lot of energy when producing meat, by growing the animals, feeding them with crops, burning fossil fuels, slaughtering them, and transportation. According to Livestock and Climate Change. World Watch (2014), 51% of the annual greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock and their by-products.
Jeremy Coller, the Founder of FAIRR said, “There’s increasing consensus that we cannot achieve the Paris Climate Agreement unless we deal with factory farming – a sector emitting more greenhouse gases than all the world’s planes, trains, and cars put together.”
Preservation of Habitats
Natural habitats are consumed and lost altogether because of the livestock industry. Eating animals and their by-products have a direct impact on habitat extinction. Why? You need land to raise animals. If you want to rear cows and graze them in a field, you need more land. According to Rainforestconcern.org, you need 200 square feet of destroyed rainforest to produce 1lb of beef.
Preservation of Different Species
Another direct impact of the meat industry on habitats is its waste products. Poorly manages waste systems on animal farms pollute our environment. Animal waste products are washed into our water system. Chemicals used during the raising and slaughtering, such as nitrogen and phosphorus are flushed into our rivers and oceans. These cause algae which suffocate fish and kill them. That is why there have been “dead zones” in our natural waters. The World Resource Institute has identified 530 marine dead zone areas as of 2011.
Conservation of Water
Although we might think that freshwater is an unlimited source, the resource is scarce. Billions of people all over the world do not have access to clean potable water.
Did you know???
Although our planet is covered mostly with water, only 2.5% of it is freshwater. And from that 2.5%, only 30% is accessible for drinking. (70% is frozen)!
How can choosing a vegan lifestyle help with water conservation? On water demand! Sustaining animal farms requires large amounts of water for the livestock to grow. It needs water to wash the farm. It needs water to cool the animals during the dry and hot seasons. In short, you need large amounts of water to produce that quarter pounder you order in a drive-thru. According to a study conducted by Veganuary.com, an animal burger needs 2350 liters of water, while a soy burger only needs 158 liters of water.
Choosing the soy burger over the beef burger is helping conserve the environment. Aside from notable health benefits, the vegan lifestyle is sustainable ad more efficient in using natural resources. It requires less energy from fossil fuels. It requires less water. It requires less landmass. That small step that you take to remove animal products in your diet plays a very big role in contributing the make the world a better place.
About the Author:
Vinita Turakhia is a Hong Kong-based mum and entrepreneur. She believes in reusing, recycling, and making choices that are environmentally friendly.
She runs a plant-based fashion accessories brand called ‘Genuinely not Leather’ in HK through which she manufacturers and markets cork fabric and teak leaf fabric handbags. Please visit www.gnlaccessories.com for more information.