What's a Vegan?

The Green Path

How Your Diet Impacts the Environment


Environmental Benefits of being Vegan

Welcome back to the path everyone! I hope you all had a good week and a great Labor Day weekend! Last time on the path we learned about eco-friendly house hunting. Today we’re going to discuss how our eating choices affect the environment. We will explore the vegan diet specifically and how this lifestyle provides tremendous benefits to our planet. As you know, I am a vegan and write about this dietary lifestyle daily on my blog. I also just recently returned from Portland where I attended and spoke at the first annual vegan bloggers conference. So, coming off the heels of the conference, I thought I would share some information about how veganism is a very eco-friendly way of eating.

Water

Livestock is a key player in the increased use of water. It accounts for over eight percent of human use globally, most often for the irrigation of feed crops. It is said to be most likely the largest sectoral source of polluted water, which contributes to dead zones in coastal areas, human health problems, antibiotic resistance among other issues. The main sources of pollution come from animal wastes, hormones and antibiotics, fertilizers and pesticides for feed crops. Pollution linked to Animal Feeding Operations or AFOs minimizes the quality of our waters and threatens drinking water sources. AFO’s produce large amounts of waste in small areas. One dairy cow produces approximately 120 pounds of wet manure per day. Manure, and waste water which contains manure, can severely harm river and stream ecosystems.

Climate

As we have previously learned on the path, the greenhouse effect occurs when carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are released into the air and blanket the Earth, trapping heat inside the atmosphere. This keeps our planet at a temperature at which life can thrive. However, the problem is since industrialization, the increased output of these and other greenhouse gases have caused the effect to intensify. The consumption of meat is responsible for at least a third of all biological methane emissions. Methane comes from the bacteria in the stomachs of sheep, cattle and goats and is released through their bodily functions. Factory farming also uses massive inputs of fossil fuels. The majority of energy used is in producing, transporting and processing feed. A study conducted by the University of Chicago compared a typical meat-based diet with a vegan diet and they found that the meat-based diet generated the equivalent of almost 1.5 tons more carbon dioxide per year per person than a vegan diet. They concluded that it would be more eco-friendly to partake in a vegan diet than switch to a petrol electric hybrid car. Additionally, the need to grow food for the growing number of cattle, pigs and chickens results in fewer trees to absorb carbon dioxide and is a huge contributor to global warming.

Deforestation

Approximately 200 million pounds of beef is imported from Central America yearly. So grazing land is needed for all of these animals. A study conducted by the Smithsonian estimates that the necessity for more grazing land means that each minute of the day, a land area equivalent to seven football fields is destroyed in the Amazon basin. For each hamburger coming from animals raised on rain-forest land, roughly 55 square feet of forest have been destroyed. Additionally, more than 260 million acres of forest in the United States have been clear-cut for animal agriculture. With increased meat consumption and a growing population, there will only be more deforestation in the future.

Meat Production

Animals raised for conventional slaughter are most often living in cramped conditions and many times stand in their own feces. These types of conditions can produce resistant strains of e-coli which is then passed down to meat eaters. Their meat also contains large amounts of antibiotics and hormones the animals were given which remains in the meat produced for consumption. Most people think these practices do not occur with meat labeled as organic. However, it cannot be proven that the animal was raised humanely just because it was not fed antibiotics or hormones.

I personally became vegan from a health standpoint. I had no idea until recently the profound affect meat production has on our environment. For most, a vegan diet is quite extreme and one that many do not want to try on for size. I have been vegetarian for nine years and a vegan going on six and I am extremely satisfied and happy. Being vegan does not relegate you to a boring lifestyle with bland, boring and tasteless food. I thoroughly enjoy eating and discover new recipes each day. There is also a host of information, tips and recipes all over the internet about veganism. Even knowing this, most will still resist, so I just encourage people to at least cut back on their meat consumption. Instead of having meat five times a week, reduce it to two or three. I believe if everyone collectively implemented small changes in their daily meals, we could start to see a shift and have a profound effect on our environment in the long run.

ezinearticles.com, veganoutreach.org, vegansociety.com, vegetarianabout.com

Edited by Chris McGrath

About the Author
Christa Shelton, is the T&G Green Living Editor and a blogger in Los Angeles, CA. She writes about green living, veganism + health, and is interested in increasing her green awareness though her experiences with this series.

You can also read her Blog at vegginoutwithchrista.blogspot.com

Or follow her on Twitter: @vegginoutwcrs