Implementing Sustainability at Home: An Environmentally Friendly Diet

Written by
Daniel Haggart
June 19, 2023

With summer around the corner, barbecues with friends and family are on the agenda for many. Now’s the perfect time to talk about the impact of the meat industry and some environmentally sustainable options so that we can all enjoy our summer while reducing our environmental impact!

The Impacts of the Meat Industry:

Greenhouse Emissions: The livestock industry accounts for a significant portion of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, being responsible for 20% of human-caused GHG emissions. Additionally, the livestock industry is accountable for 37% of Methane emissions, a GHG which poses an exceptionally high environmental risk. Methane traps more heat in each molecule when compared to other GHGs, such as Carbon Dioxide, and has been attributed to 30% of the global temperature rise that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution. The livestock industry produces GHGs at an unsustainable rate and is a driving force in climate change.

Land Usage: Another impact that the meat industry has on the environment is the extensive land required for raising livestock. While beef only accounts for approximately 1% of the global caloric intake, cows need 21% of global arable land. Because of the massive amounts of land required to support the cattle industry, many natural environments have been destroyed to make way for cattle. Such is the case in the largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon, where up to 80% of deforestation has been caused by the cattle ranching industry. This deforestation can be very environmentally damaging as the rainforest is a major carbon sink, crucial to the natural removal of carbon from our atmosphere.  

Biodiversity: The rapid conversion of natural habits into land used for livestock has come with devastating impacts on biodiversity. Due to human activity, 25 different “biodiversity hotspots,” which contain nearly half of Earth’s plants and over a third of terrestrial vertebrae, have shrunken by 90% of their original size. The shrinking of these habitats that is fueled by the livestock industry has put countless species at risk by forcing them out of their natural environments.

Water Pollution: One final area where we see the livestock industry’s impact is in the water. Livestock operations can pollute local water sources through animal waste runoff and from chemicals and fertilizers used in animal feed. Livestock farms were cited for polluting rivers in England over 300 times in 2021, endangering water sources throughout the country. According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, Industrial Agriculture is the leading cause of pollution in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. Additionally, many pollutants that are produced by agricultural runoff cannot be removed in conventional water treatment processes, making spills from agricultural operations much harder to contain and clean. The pollution produced by the livestock industry puts ecosystems worldwide in danger and vital water sources at risk.

What we can do:

The good news is that there is still time to take action! By making conscious choices and embracing a greener plate, we can contribute to a more sustainable and thriving planet. Here are some ways you can make changes this summer!

Discover Plant-Based Protein:

Adopting an environmentally sustainable diet doesn’t mean sacrificing flavors or adequate nutrition. There are countless alternatives to explore, guaranteed to satisfy any palette. Try out legumes such as chickpeas, lintels, and beans as an alternate source of protein, also rich in fiber and other nutrients. Other sources of protein include soy-based options like tofu and tempeh. These alternatives can be found in various cuisines and are incredibly versatile. Explore different recipes to create mouthwatering dishes!

Make Meat a Supporting Actor, Not the Main Star:

You can still make sustainable changes without completely removing meat from your diet. Limiting how much meat you consume and incorporating new alternatives allows you to enjoy meat while making a positive change. Even by reducing meat consumption by 30%, you can reduce the environmental impact of your diet by 14% while still receiving the same nutritional benefits of meat.

A simple way to reduce meat consumption is to designate days of the week when you will turn to meat alternatives, such as “meatless Mondays.” You can use these days to explore new cuisine and ingredients. Try new flavors and have fun while supporting our environment by reducing your meat consumption.

Another way to reduce your environmental impact without completely getting rid of meat is to be conscious of what type of meat you consume. Beef and lamb have the highest environmental cost, so incorporating more sustainable meats, such as chicken, fish, and turkey, will reduce the carbon impact of your diet. By being conscious of the carbon footprint of different meats and shifting away from carbon-intensive meats such as beef, you can very easily make a positive impact.

Shop Local:

Transportation accounts for 19% of all the emissions in the food industry, or around three gigatons (3 billion metric tons). By supporting local businesses and buying products produced locally, you can avoid these transportation-related emissions and help create an environmentally friendly diet. At farmer’s markets, you can get fresh produce from local farms, supporting both the environment and local businesses!

By making these easy changes to your diet, you can explore new and exciting cuisine while making a positive impact. Whether it be trying out new meat alternatives, cutting down on meat consumption, or shopping locally, you can reduce the carbon impact of your diet. Together we can build a greener future, one bite at a time!

About the Author:

I am a graduating Junior at Clemson University in South Carolina, studying Political Science and History. Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, I have always had a passion for the environment and its preservation. I am working with Let’s Do It World this summer to spread useful information about the environment to help make a positive impact!

Daniel Haggart

With summer around the corner, it's the perfect time to talk about the impact of the meat industry and some environmentally sustainable options!
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