Why Eating Plant-based is the Most Effective Way to Incorporate Sustainability into Your Life

Many of you have probably seen the hit Netflix documentaries Cowspiracy and it’s sequel What the Health. They received mixed responses – some, like myself, decided to avoid eating meat and dairy from that moment on. Others, however, are still skeptical and reluctant to admit the diet they grew up on could not only be greatly harming the planet but could be a hidden cause for cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Since I am not a nutritionist by any means, I decided to cover only the environmental aspects of diet that these documentaries mention.

Infographic with interesting statistics!

Firstly, raising animals for food requires an unsustainable amount of water and vegetation. In fact, 2,500 gallons of water are needed for every pound of meat, as opposed to 155 gallons needed for a pound of wheat. It’s no secret that fresh water is becoming a dangerously scarce resource and is obviously not being effectively conserved. Also, the vast majority of grains we do grow are fed those animals, who consume enough food to meet the needs of 8.7 billion people. Considering millions of people on Earth are starving today, the methods of animal agriculture just don’t make logical sense. By eliminating meat and dairy from one’s diet, they could save roughly 200,000 gallons of water every year.

Cows in feedlots consume large amounts of grain and other resources, and produce large amounts of waste.

On another note, in the US alone, animals raised to be eaten produce an insane amount of excrement. Where does all this go? The disgusting answer is: everywhere! It runs off of factory farms, polluting lakes, rivers, and even the air as it’s often sprayed away as a mist. Cows also release methane – a greenhouse gas that traps 84x more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide does. For those who aren’t aware, the accumulation of greenhouse gases such as the two discussed in our atmosphere is causing more solar energy to be trapped and absorbed, rather than reflected back out to space. This is what’s causing the average surface temperature of the Earth to continuously increase. Not only do these animals pollute the land around them, they require so much land – for grazing and to grow the millions of tons of grains they eat a day – that animal agriculture is now widely recognized as the leading cause of deforestation. Considering we are currently losing 18 million acres of forest a year and many of the species native to those forests are becoming extinct, this should be a huge red flag. If we were to consume those crops directly as opposed to feeding them to animals, this would use approximately 20 times less land.

Clear-cutting for agriculture changes the environment drastically.

I am in no way forcing veganism down anyone’s throats. I am, however, presenting the indisputable facts, many of which I learned in EAS 100 here at the U of A, to encourage people to consider their dietary habits and whether those work in their own best interest. Everyone wants to consider themselves an ‘environmentalist’ and an ‘animal lover’ but consuming animal products completely contradicts those labels. Don’t forget that every individual choice you make does make a difference!


Featured image: https://ag.santarosa.edu/sustainable-agriculture

Georgia Boston
Sustain X Team Member

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