Environmental topics have been discussed for centuries. Although it feels like it’s only started to become a popular discussion recently, not only from “hippy activists” but from everyone this time. Not sure if we really needed a worldwide pandemic to finally open our eyes, but it seems like it had an impact on people. My recent travels in Southeast Asia & the Pacific definitely contributed in my willingness to care more, it changed my mindset forever. Avoiding plastic and chemicals in products we use every day, recycling properly, prioritising walking over driving for short distances…etc. All of these actions are great and useful, but are they enough?
Current situation in 2021
Let’s start with a definition of two key terms. “Global warming” is due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. Whereas “Climate change” refers to both human and naturally produced warming, as well as the effects it has on our planet. Now let’s move to what’s happening and what will happen if we don’t do anything. The planet has warmed by an average of nearly 1°C in the past century. Human activity is said to be the dominant influence on the environment, climate, and ecology. So far, these changes have already had drastic impacts on all life on Earth.
If we don’t do anything and the planet keeps warming up faster than the natural process, we will face disastrous consequences. It would mean floods or droughts on various areas, the destruction of rainforests, and even the extinction of many other species. This list is not exhaustive and the speed temperatures are rising is now faster than ever before. To some degree (no pun intended), climate change is a natural phenomenon. But global warming is man-made… Which also means we can do something about it. Do you want to know what your environmental footprint is? WWF will calculate it for you by taking this quick questionnaire.
How our diet impacts the planet
Our diet plays a huge part in our carbon footprint. Food is responsible for a quarter of global emissions. And almost 60% of food emissions come from animal products. Beef has the biggest carbon footprint, by far. And the main issue is the amount of beef that the world currently demands. The global population getting richer only makes things worse. We are asking big agriculture for more meat than we can sustainably produce. In comparison, a portion of the highest-impact vegetable proteins emits less than the lowest-impact animal proteins…
Some figures about what we eat (provided by Friends of the Earth):
- 14.5% of global climate changing gases are due to meat and dairy production (more than all forms of transport)
- 50% of habitable land around the world is used to produce food
- 45,000 early deaths could be prevented in the UK every year if we ate low meat diets
- Over 10 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK annually
- 8 billion animals are killed for meat every year in the UK
These figures are shocking. The fact that half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture should ring alarm bells. Basically, we need to buy less meat, milk, cheese and butter – but also eat more locally sourced seasonal food, and throw less of it away. Would you be prepared to change your diet for the planet?
What we can do about it
Eating more sustainable meat can already make a big difference. But less meat is nearly always better for your carbon footprint than sustainable meat. It is absolutely essential to reduce your meat consumption to curb climate change. Is going vegan the answer? The climate impact of plant-based foods is typically 10 to 50 times smaller than that of animal products. So of course a plant-based diet would drastically help reduce emissions. Switching to veganism (completely plant-based) would deliver the largest emissions savings, followed by vegetarianism (including eggs and dairy) – It’s no surprise. Bearing that in mind, you don’t have to go that far if you’re not willing to. To sum things up nicely:
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”Michael Pollan
The bottom line
For some people, completely cutting out meat and dairy is not an option. If that’s your case, thankfully there are plenty of other ways to contribute! For example:
- Go flexitarian
- Eat vegetarian one day a week
- Ban meat from your breakfasts
- Eat more whole and locally grown foods
- Reduce food waste
- Eat less junk food
- Eat smaller portions
I previously shared 3 awesome tofu recipes if you’re willing to give plant proteins a go to help reduce your meat consumption. You could also just cut out beef from your diet. Switching to pork, cod, chicken or soya beans could drastically reduce CO2 emissions. But personally, I do think the future is vegan. It’s a matter of time before consumers force food industries to adapt to the new demands. Have you already taken a step in that direction?
Big Girl x
My parents raised me vegetarian and I am SO grateful to them for that! There are so many meat alternatives out there these days (way more than when I was a kid, haha!) and it really is such a worth it lifestyle for all its benefits. My partner loves meat, but since we’ve been together he’s super cut back– he only eats it 2-3 times a month now and barely notices the change. Thanks for this great post!
I can totally imagine it was nowhere near as easy before… It’s great to see interest is increasing nowadays! Things are heading to the right direction and I believe future generations will care about the planet more and more. Also well done for having a positive influence on your partner 🙂
Wow, this was packed full of vital information that the people need to hear. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.
You’re right, it’s such an important topic!
Lots of great info here! And, feeling relieved that my family follows many of these practices. I’m not sure we are the vegan type, but we do enjoy vegetarian meals throughout the week. We’re also lucky to have sustainable family-owned farms nearby. I make a stop each weekend at their market to buy what I can directly from them. Question, though: your tip to ban meat from breakfasts…are breakfast meats in particular worse? Or, is it just an easy meal to go meatless? Personally, I would prefer to go meatless at dinner, so I’m really wondering!
As per my tips, the list is not exhaustive and I only meant them as examples… You’re making a valid point though, I should have said “ban meat for breakfast, lunch or dinner” instead of simply “breakfast” to avoid any confusion! In theory, it’s easier to avoid bacon/sausages every morning rather than your beloved burger or steak for lunch/dinner, but I guess it really depends on your eating habits.
It looks like you’re already very conscious of the environment with your diet so well done! 🙂
An eye opening post, thank you. Definitely gives me something to think about.
I’m glad you found it useful!
Very informative post! I personally love eating vegeterian food most of time and I am ok with eating meat 2x a week. When I eat meat it is mostly chicken, pork and fish. I reduced dairy products intake years ago because it had terrible effect on my skin. Clean eating really is better for us and for planet.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge and I will look at your tofu recipes!
What you say about the effect of dairy on your skin is interesting! It used to give me stomachaches… Clearly it’s not good for us. I hope you’ll like the tofu recipes 🙂 Let me know if you try any!
Yes. Future seems to be vegan. Thank you 😊🌍