The human health benefits of changing to a vegan diet are well documented as valid reasons to go vegan, but what about the added benefits of aiding the environment you coexist with?

Here are five ways you can give back to the planet, because changing to a vegan diet can...

The 5 Key Environmental Reasons to Go Vegan

1.   Keep the Earth green in colour and carbon footprint

Studies suggest that a third of all fossil fuels used in the United States go toward animal agriculture. This is because every stage of the meat production requires electricity: from raising the animal, to growing crops to feed the animal, to the meat products then finally being shipped, refrigerated and transported via truck, boat and even plane.

On the other hand, maintaining a plant-based diet is thought to use around 20 times less land than that of someone who eats meat as the crops grown are being eaten directly, not used to feed animals. This aids fossil fuel usage and energy efficiency by not only ensuring there is less land to power and miles spent in transportation but by also freeing up plentiful, green farmland which in turn helps to combat world hunger.

It's estimated that 700 million tons of food that could be consumed by humans goes to livestock each year, with 70% of the grain grown in the US feeding livestock.

When compared to meat production, one hectare of land would feed one or two people, whereas in a plant based diet, one hectare of cropland designated to growing either rice or potatoes would feed up to 22 people. That’s a lot more food, and a lot less carbon footprint. 

2.   Keep the Earth Cooler

A UN climate summit way back in 2014 stated that reducing the amount of methane released into the atmosphere would create tangible benefits almost straight away. The United States Food and Agriculture Organisation found that cows alone produce around 150 billion gallons of methane, and cows and sheep are responsible for 37% of the total methane -- 23 times as warming as CO2 -- generated by human activity. That’s terrible news for the planet’s core temperature, as across a twenty year timeframe, methane is somewhere in the region of 25 to 100 times more harmful than CO2.

CO2 doesn’t escape the heat either. Livestock rearing is thought to produce up to 32,000 million tons of CO2 every year, generate 64 percent of ammonia - which significantly contributes to acid rain - and generate 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 300 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. It’s no surprise that a study, Livestock’s Long Shadow, found that animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than that of all exhausts from every method of transportation combined including cars, trucks, planes, boats and trains.

 

3.   Keep Our Water Clearer and Cleaner...:

Waste water containing manure and other factory farm pollutants severely harms river and stream ecosystems. Farmed animals produce about 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population of the United States and most factory farms don't have sewage treatment systems as cities and towns do, so this waste ends up polluting fresh water sources.

If you’ve been in the supermarket and noticed the price of fish has increased, but the size has decreased, this is in part due to the disintegration of these natural environments. Once pollutants such as nitrogen, phosphorus, antibiotics and pesticides reach the waterways they cause mass amounts of damage to aquatic life, and endanger human life if water is taken from a polluted source without being purified first.

For fish, algal blooms in particular block waterways, and use up oxygen as they decompose, killing their natural populations in those areas – a large reason why so much fish used for human consumption is now farmed, rather than fished organically.

 

4.   … And flowing:

780 million people do not have access to a clean, or sanitised water source -- that’s 35% of the world's population, which makes fresh water a scarce resource. Of all the water available to us on our planet, only 2.5% of it is fresh water and not frozen as ice.

Compared to plant-based foods, the rearing of animals requires large amounts of water in part due to the needs of the animal, such as thirst and cooling themselves in hot temperatures, but also due to the need to maintain sanitary and hygienic conditions for the animal to live. A study exploring the water footprint of different foods found that whilst a soy burger has a water footprint of 158 litres, a beef burger has a water footprint of 2,350 litres, whilst the water required to produce a kilo of beef varies from 13,000 liters to 100,000 liters.

Compare those figures with the water required to produce a kilo of wheat -- somewhere between 1,000-2,000 litres -- and it’s plain to see why replacing a roast chicken with a veggie chili or bean stew (both which house similar protein levels) can save 4,325 litres of water and shrink the numbers of people still without access to fresh water.

 

5.   Keep Our Trees Tall and Our Oxygen Clear:

Remember the aforementioned concern of nitrogen and methane polluting our air? Without oxygen to keep that balanced, the outlook of global warming is bleak and without trees to produce that oxygen, it’s worse still. In the Amazon region of Latin America, livestock production is responsible for 70% of deforestation, where rainforests are being cleared to create new pastures. Livestock farming can lead to overgrazing which causes soil erosion, desertification and deforestation.

Thirty percent of the earth’s entire land surface is used for rearing farmed animals, with much being grazing land that has either already been marked as degraded due to the rearing of animals, or that would otherwise host natural habitats such as rainforests.

Deforestation not only increases greenhouse gas emissions by releasing carbon previously stored in the trees, it plays a major role in the loss of biodiversity. Wide-spread cultivation of the land ruins animals’ natural habitat and forces millions of them to be evicted from their homes each year, causing long-term harm to wildlife such as monkeys, orangutans and many species of birds.

So there you have it, the key environmental reasons why you may wish to turn to a vegan diet. It's no wonder these points are also key to the growth of veganism.

Want to reward yourself and the planet? Enjoy one of our guilt free, organic and free-from hampers.

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My name is Anna and I'm the co-founder of The Goodness Project. This is a little place where we will be sharing some of the things that inspire us at The Goodness Project - the food, the brands, the people and the lifestyle. We hope you enjoy your stay! :)

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