As the summer sun beats down and talk of rising sea levels and greenhouse gases seems to be everywhere, a recent study published in Climactic Change has linked a possible solution to global warming to one place: our plates.
In recent years, veganism has received a great deal of criticism and has challenged the way Americans live and eat. However, as reported by the Huffington Post, researchers found vegans contribute only half as many greenhouse gas emissions as their meat-eating counterparts. This begs the question of whether more Americans should consider reducing their meat intake.
As the second-leading nation in meat consumption, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it’s time for preconceived notions of rabbit food and flower children to be replaced with open-mindedness for less damaging options.
Animal rights aside, the meat industry in itself is a large producer of greenhouse gas emissions, and is a leading cause of environmental degradation. According to FAO, 30 percent of Earth’s land mass is used for livestock. This can lead to overgrazing, water pollution, and loss of biodiversity and can have detrimental effects in the long run.
Additionally, PETA reports it requires 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, compared to the 25 gallons of water required to produce one pound of wheat. It also requires more than 11 times as much fossil fuel to produce just one calorie of animal protein as opposed to plant protein.
For many Americans, considering a vegan or vegetarian diet is threatening to their ideologies. It leaves the question of how a meal can be dinner if an animal didn’t have to die. It is difficult to commit to a more restrictive lifestyle because it’s one that requires conscious consumption.
However, these diets are not the only solution to benefiting the environment. As mentioned on the environmental news website Mother Nature Network, other options include eliminating processed foods, buying locally grown produce, or simply eating less meat. One can also avoid foods packaged in aluminum or wax-lined paper to reduce exposure to bisphenol- A, or BPA, which is linked to health problems.
Choosing to be conscious about food and its overall impact has never been easier. There is always the option to find vegan, non-processed and locally grown food as large chain grocery stores now carry a meatless version of almost everything.
While it is important to consider the well-being of animals, this is a critical period to be consciously aware of the longitudinal effects of careless meat consumption. Eating less meat, supporting local farmers and reducing water consumption are simple steps to decrease personal carbon footprints.
Brandon Shaik is a senior majoring in psychology.