You've probably heard it before: cutting down one’s meat intake can reduce carbon emissions in the world. But now a study shows just how influential your diet is for the environment.
Peter Scarborough, along with co-workers at the University of Oxford, assembled information on the diets of over 50,000 participants in the United Kingdom so that they could learn how their carbon footprints are influenced by their diets.
What they found was startling: people who eat an excess of 100 grams of meat (which is half a cup of cooked ground beef or a quarter pound of T-bone steak) on a daily basis could reduce their carbon footprint by 60% by going vegan. This would be saving 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide every year. Even flexitarians (people who do not follow a strict vegan diet and sometimes eat meat) could make a difference just by cutting down their meat consumption. The study found that if someone eats more than 100 grams of meat daily and reduced this to half the quantity, they would decrease their carbon emissions by one-third. Their efforts would spare a tonne of carbon dioxide every year. As for highly committed vegans, they are responsible for 25% carbon emissions than people who are vegetarians.
Why is it that the less meat one consumes, the less carbon emissions are produced? The livestock industry is responsible for approximately 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions. This translates into more carbon emissions than those expelled from airplanes, cars and trains combined! Added to this, did you know that almost 60% of the average U.S. household’s diet originates from animal products?
This UK study can definitely bring about positive environmental change, for vegans and non-vegans alike. Just by knowing that decreasing meat consumption a little can make a difference is sure to inspire people to tweak their eating habits.
In the meantime, scientists are also analyzing other ways to make the meat industry a bit less negative for the environment. A report released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization stated that by using better-digestible feeds for cows, this can lower the amount of methane these animals generate. Then there’s also the issue of soil. If the soil on land that is used for grazing is better managed, this can definitely assist in carbon-emission prevention.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.