September 26, 2022


Plant Based Diets and Saving Our Planet

In my last youth voice post, I discussed a new plan that New York city schools were implementing into their school systems… Meatless Mondays! As I have continued my research on the topic of plant based diets, I have found much more to add to the benefits of eating in this new lifestyle. The first article I read was about how to become a vegetarian. It says that about six to eight million american adults eat no meat because of the wide variety of new food options as well as types of plant-based diets. Vegetarians consume more vitamins and consume less saturated fats and artificial flavors and colors; they are likely to have health benefits like lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and a lower bmi which are associated with low risk for chronic diseases. What I also liked about this article was that it included the reasons why people choose not to eat plants based like nutrient deficiency and making switches from meat to processed food sources. But after each counter point, they used evidence to show that you can get all the proper nutrients from a plant based diet and more by being mindful of what we are putting in our bodies and limiting processed meals. 

The next article that I read was an article by the BBC about how going plant based can fight climate change. It discusses how the world could solve so many problems by going vegetarian, especially climate change. Something I found interesting was how Extreme weather has a big impact on quality of the land and livestock sustainability. Livestock growing and production contributes to almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. It also discusses the massive amounts of food waste shows how much we are over producing which contributes to climate change. The article also included an image of a chart explaining what portions of our food contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. It states that 26% of global carbon emissions come from food. 58% of those food emissions come from animal products and of those, 50% of animal products emissions come from beef and lamb production. The overall message of this article is that if humans want to save the planet, we must change the way we utilize our land and resources as well as our lifestyle choices. 

Finally the last article I read was 9 was veganism is helping the planet. It discusses how with the population growing, the demand for more food will increase; if we produce more meat, we will use up more resources and cause more greenhouse gases.  We are producing more crops for animals to consume than for humans to consume. The livestock are also taking up more of our water to water their food and for them to drink. The livestock is only taking up resources that could be used for humans to use and harms the environment. We as a society need to use the land more productively instead of raising livestock so that humans can live comfortably and more environmentally friendly.

Veganism and the Environment

An article titled “The Politics of Veganism” breaks down this lifestyle into all sorts of topics of debate. It covers the controversy around it, the difference between veganism and vegetarianism, the environmental effects, and common myths thought about diet in general. In the section concerning the environment, it explicitly states that the meat industry has a direct link to “…wastage, pollution, the production of fewer nutrients, deforestation and the associated extinction of many species of animals by the destruction of their habitats, ninety percent of which live in the tropics [Singer, 1995:169]; and the methane effect.” (McGrath 2000). 

The science and research has been done to prove why a diet high in the consumption of meat and dairy is detrimental to not only health but the planet, too. It’s also been shown that a cutback in contribution to these industries would even reverse some of these effects and not just stop them. Some of these benefits would include, “…the availability of agricultural land previously used for livestock, reduction of the wastage of water used in producing the feed for livestock and a return of the wetlands.” (McGrath 2000). This would, in turn, translate to the ability to feed countries plagued by hunger.

Photo by JoeInSouthernCA

More Findings on Veganism

Upon continuing my research, I have found there seems to be more information in support of veganism rather than against it. Several articles, I have read claim avoiding animal products not only helps your body physically, but also mentally. According to the Department of Nutrition, Benedictine University, decreasing consumption of animal products has been “associated with improved mood.” More specifically, those who consumed a vegan diet versus an omnivorous diet saw changes in stress level. The same study however proved that fewer people with depression or anxiety saw the same benefits.

One study in the International Journal of Nursing Practice tried to link veganism to bone fractures and the more common occurrence due to lack of vitamin D. After analyzing several studies, however, it can be concluded that there are “issues with the generalizability of the studies because of sample size and subject characteristics.” Overall, there were too many factor that led to this study being unreliable and not useful for proving a correlation between the two.

A recurring theme seems to emerge as the number one issue with veganism: lack of nutrients. An article focusing on vegan diets for dancers points out that often times those who are vegan “many vegetarians and vegans are missing the veggie part,” and as a result are eating foods that may not come from animals but also don’t have any nutritional value. Also in this article, it is pointed out that other health risks include “lack of calcium, low calorie count, diminished muscle tone, limited variety, and too little fat.” These deficiencies are especially prevalent for dancers and other athletes who expend a lot of energy daily.

How do Our Dietary Choices Impact the Environment?

Climate change is affecting our planet now more than every, and people may have a bigger part in this worldwide issue than they realize. Different media outlets have tried to advertize easy, day to day choices we can make to help reduce our carbon footprints. Typically, these suggestions have been things like take shorter showers, turning the water off while brushing your teeth, or carpooling as much as possible. There could be a relatively easier change to implement; one that substantially helps. Studies have shown that one of the most dangerous and harmful industries to our planet is the meat industry. It contributes to almost half of the greenhouse gases, more than the entire transportation sector combined. One of the most advertised solutions to combat our carbon footprints is to limit our contributions to greenhouse gases, one the most harmful phenomenons facing our planet. As stated so in an article by Sharon Palmer, plant-based nutrition expert, “…the greenhouse gas emissions for a vegan diet are 41.7 percent lower compared with non-vegetarians…” (Sharon 2015). Making conscious decisions throughout our day to day lives regarding nutrition could be the easy solution many environmentalists are looking for.