Is eating your greens going to save the earth? This could have been a ridiculous question about a decade ago. But now, it’s even got a serious answer! It is estimated that if more people switched to eating more vegetables, than it can probably reduce our carbon emission by up to 18%.

Of course this isn’t going to cut it with die-hard carnivores, who will probably say you can take away their hamburgers when you pry it from their cold, dead hands. We need to back it with hard proof, kind of like defending the label “smoking is injurious to health”, and hope you have better success. Let’s look at why our baked beans and stir fried tofu are trumping our primerib and roast chickens.


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You need a whole lot of land, water and feed to produce enough meat for a restaurant full of people on a Friday night. The same amount of resources can actually go into feeding a whole community of vegetarians. So, if more of the land and water was used for vegetables than animals, the per acre production food will be much higher!

Do you ever wonder where all those nice meadows for cattle grazing come from? Well, it just might have been a lush forest before it was hacked down and cleared for cattle. The result is not only disruption in ecological balance of the land, but also the extinction of several species. Vegetable farming on the other hand seems to be much less harmful to the ecology of an area.

Authorities in US determined that cattle grazing can take credit for at least 26% of the list of threatened and extinct species in the country. And the situation is worse in the tropical rain forests of South America, where ranching is destroying major parts of the forest.

The meat producing industry also leans heavily on fresh water sources, leaving very little for actual domestic use. As a result, communities are becoming more and more dependent on stored water. However, these reservoirs are not getting replenished at the same rate due to lack of rain and we are fast heading for a crisis. Some one even suggested that the next world war will be fought over water. And to think we can avoid it by switching to veggies!

Ecologists have determined that production of non-vegetarian food demands about eight times the amount of fossil-fuel energy needed for producing vegetarian food. One specialist actually quoted that a single hamburger made from ranches in South America is responsible for the death of a few hundred odd species or life forms!

Our initial estimate of 18% reduction in carbon footprint stems from a 2006 UN report which found that the non-vegetarian farming adds to 1.5 tons of Co2 emission to our world. Alphabetically speaking here is how we can break it down:

  1. Animal poop (read: manure) releases green house gases;
  2. Cow fart and burp methane gas,
  3. Deforestation for land leads to increase in CO2;
  4. Special fertilizer used to grow animal feed are produced by CO2 emitting factories
  5. Modern air-conditioned barns, automated meat processing plants, transportation etc all adds up to huge carbon emission.

Fortunately we have sum up the abuse within E, but the world is reeling from global warming and if cutting down on your chicken wings and prime ribs and keep the earth safe, it’s not bad a bargain is it?


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Outside of US, Farmers associations in England and European countries have actually welcomed this suggestion, pointing out that a little change in diet will actually free up a lot more land for farming food grains. European countries have also shown more inclination towards vegan diets as a lifestyle decision and are proud to now flaunt fitter citizens than in the US where obesity is a national health issue.

We humans have always been omnivores, meaning we can and do eat anything and everything under the sun. So, switching a complete vegetarian diet may not be possible for many. It will be easier if people simple cut down on the quantity of non-vegetarian and start finding vegetarian alternatives to their favorite meat dishes. Even though this will shock most meat-lovers, but veggies can be very tasty and contrary to popular belief vegans are not sissies! So give the veggies a try, you have nothing to lose but may be a cleaner safer to home to gain.

By Maria Belgado

Additional resources:
What are some environmental reasons to go vegetarian?
Environmental vegetarianism
Vegetarian Diet Better for Environment, Says UK Climate Change Leader
Logical Environmental Reasoning for a Vegetarian Lifestyle