You do not have to be vegan to follow a plant-based diet. Plant-based diets are those which consist primarily of wholegrains, fruits, and vegetables, and limit the amount of refined, processed and animal-derived foods. Since the issue of climate change is now more pressing than ever, changing to more sustainable, plant-based diets can make a huge difference on both the environment and your health. Read on to discover more in Plant-Based Diets: 3 Reasons They’re More Sustainable than Carnivorous Ones!
1. Reduced Environmental Impact
Globally, the food systems are responsible for 20-35% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Within this, agriculture accounts for 12%, and livestock is higher at 18%.
If we focus on livestock emissions and we discover that over 60% of the total livestock emissions comes from beef and dairy animals. Additionally, the carbon footprint of meat, from farm production to food consumption, is significantly higher than the carbon footprint of vegetables.
So, if increased efforts were made to follow a plant-based or vegetarian diet, and reduce meat consumption, greenhouse gas emissions would decrease, as would that of water consumption, pesticide and fertiliser use.
2. Plant-Based Diets Promote Biodiversity
Rearing livestock for meat requires large amounts of land, both in producing animal feed and in creating the actual space for livestock. This, alongside the increasing demand for food, is leading to an agricultural expansion and the production of fewer and fewer crops.
In contrast, vegetarian and vegan diets decrease these environmental pressures. Vegetable cultivation requires much less land space, and so if meat production decreased, space would be created on the land to grow more trees and more varied crops, which would ultimately prevent the rise of monocultures (growing a single crop) and promote biodiversity.
3. Better Health
Studies have shown that diets high in meat can increase the risk of mortality and cardiovascular diseases. In contrast, plant-based diets are much more sustainable for our health, and one well-studied example of a plant-based diet leading to enhanced longevity and well-being is the Mediterranean diet.
Adherence to this diet has been shown to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease, and also lower the risk of mortality. Furthermore, the European Prospective Investigation (EPIC) found that BMI (body mass index) was higher in meat-eaters and lowest in vegans.
Therefore, through an uptake in our consumption of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, and plant-based protein sources, we can expect to enjoy better health through a corresponding reduction in our risk of cardiovascular diseases and obesity.