Global Warming & Climate Change: Is the Future Vegan?

protect nature and save the planet

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.

isolated house on ice melting
Trust me, I wish it wasn’t true.

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

How Can We Have a Positive Impact on the Environment?

Let’s face it, we’re in this situation partly because we haven’t taken care of our planet well enough so far. Our environment and the current pandemic are strongly linked together and it’s more important than ever to act before it’s too late. I know this is just another post on the matter but the more people talking about it the better.

How can we help the planet as individuals?

I’m not going to talk about what the Government should do, they’re often too slow to react and I believe individuals can make a huge difference already. It’s a matter of making the right decision when you do have a choice that doesn’t really affect your life. It’s about bearing in mind that your actions do have an impact and making small changes in your routine is definitely worth it! It has more impact for the planet if everyone changes their lifestyle a little rather than a minority taking drastic measures.

“In a world of more than seven billion people, each of us is a drop in the bucket. But with enough drops, we can fill any bucket.”

David Suzuki

Use your car less

Ask yourself if you could you walk instead, or take your bike. Otherwise public transport would still be a better option, if you can. Maybe you could commit to use your car only during the weekend for example? There is also the possibility to drive an electric car rather than one using petrol or diesel. On our end, we don’t have a car anymore and most of the time, we don’t miss it. When we do need a car, we hire just for a day or two.

Eat less meat

It’s not about becoming vegetarian or vegan (unless you really want to!) but at least limit your consumption of meat, especially beef and lamb. You can read this interesting article talking about how beef is way more damaging to the planet than white meat for example. Dairy is not great either, personally I’ve replaced cow’s milk with plant-based milk in my diet (it’s also more digestible and better for your health so it’s a win-win).

Shop less often

Everything we buy has a carbon footprint. You could shop more “green”, but sometimes it’s even better to just shop less (and live more – to save the planet). Think about reusing things a bit more for example, like selling rather than throwing away, buying second hand rather than new.

Use more reusable accessories

We have a tendency to buy some things out of habits or tradition without even thinking of the impact it can have on the planet. Some things are easy to change though, for example: use silicon lids instead of cling film, a reusable coffee cup instead of a disposable one, metal straws instead of plastic ones, tissue paper instead of wrapping paper etc.

Talk more about it

Don’t underestimate the impact of your words on your friends and family, or even colleagues. Maybe you’ll inspire someone else? When you make a sustainable-oriented decision, other people around you do too because we influence each other.

Sometimes you just can’t avoid that car trip, really crave for that steak or forgot to bring your reusable cup to the office. It’s fine, you can always compensate with a green initiative! Here’s a few suggestions:

  • Donate to an environmental charity (here are a few options)
  • Recycle items for DIY or give old objects a second life
  • Plant a tree if you have a garden
  • Opt for sustainable energy in your home (solar panels, low carbon heating options etc)
  • Volunteer to be part of a green charity
  • Educate yourself more by reading about 30 Ways to Be More Eco Friendly in 2020

What small changes have you already made in your habits?

Big Girl x