Author: Matthew Vulpis
The Positive Impact of the Growth of Vegan Living on the Environment.
It’s been said before that human civilization is still currently feeling the effects and consequences of the industrial revolution, though this time period took place nearly two hundred years ago now. This statement can be seen undoubtedly across the globe today, and most prominently applies to the current state of the environment.
The original industrial revolution, as well as the two that came after, is one of the main culprits for a variety of the environmental issues we’re grappling with presently. Unsafe levels of air pollution for 92 percent of the world’s population, climate change, the depletion of fishing stocks, toxins in rivers and soils, overflowing levels of waste on land and in the ocean, and deforestation can all be traced to industrialization.
Now, as we enter the fourth industrial revolution, the preservation of the nature we have left, as well as the improvement and cleansing of the environment we’ve negatively impacted, is a priority among enterprises of all industries.
In fact, 75 percent of corporate sustainability professionals agree organizations must improve their sustainability strategy to meet global mega-trends. On top of this, 50 percent of major US businesses and 60 percent of worldwide companies report investing in strategies to reduce environmental consequences.
Among the strategies being funded to create a more eco-friendly world, the switch for alternative resources and renewable energy is the most notable. The switch to renewable energy is already underway, as renewable energy use increased 3 percent in 2020 as demand for all other fuels declined. Overall, current progress and projections already show that by 2050, 50 percent of the world’s energy will come from renewable energy, as the world continues to look for alternative energy options.
However, the transition to renewable energy is being done on an immense-scale, with mainly organizations driving the switch. On an individual scale, with so much damage being done by large enterprises, it can seem tough to find a way to make a difference. Recycling glass and plastic can only negate so much of industrial pollution.
Many consumers today have the itch to help create a better environment, as a recent study finds that 81 percent of people polled expect companies to be environmentally conscious in their advertising and communications, and 69 percent of respondents said they were doing everything possible to minimize their carbon footprint. While every little can and bottle counts, one way consumers can help in the preservation of a cleaner world is through a vegan, or at least a flexitarian, lifestyle.
How Vegan Helps
Veganism, today, is defined as “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” As for flexitarian, this is someone who simply practices vegan habits some days of the week, but not every day.
While veganism is most often associated with offering health advantages, such as nutrition rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, the lifestyle also provides environmental benefits at the same time.
For example, veganism can help reduce methane pollution, which is 80 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, and it accounts for up to 30 percent of global warming since pre-industrial times. A majority of human-caused methane emissions come from animal agriculture, with 32 percent coming from livestock digestion and waste.
This is because cows actually belch out methane while digesting their food, as each year, a single cow belches 220 pounds of methane into the atmosphere. Multiply this by the 1.5 billion cows in the global food system, and this is a dangerous amount of methane being added to the atmosphere. However, the UN estimated that by “shifting toward plant-based diets and embracing alternative sources of protein,” humans could cut methane emissions by 45 percent, which would be critical to slowing global warming.
Another instance where veganism can make a difference environmentally when it comes to energy consumption. Meat requires a lot of processing before it is suitable for human consumption, and meat processing requires a lot of energy. It takes about 31.5 kilowatt-hours of energy to produce one pound of beef—a little under the amount of energy your fridge uses to run for a whole month.
At the same time, plant-based sources of protein, like beans and nuts, require much less processing and are therefore much more energy-efficient than meat. Making the switch to plant-based saves energy consumption and reduces fossil fuel emissions.
Finally, veganism can aid the protection and preservation of rainforests and other habitats, as well as the various species that populate these areas. It takes a lot of land to meet global demand for meat, so much that about one-third of the Earth’s landmass is dedicated to raising animals for consumption.
On top of this, animal agriculture—specifically cattle ranching—is responsible for a vast majority of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical forest. Over a fifteen year period, the meat industry slashed and burned over 111 million acres of forests, the equivalent of 84 million football fields.
Meanwhile, plant-based meat alternatives don’t require nearly as much land to produce. In fact, the Good Food Institute estimates that plant-based meat uses up to 99 percent less land than conventional meat. Forest ecosystems would reap the greatest benefits of the world going vegan, as one estimate shows that, if we got our protein from plants instead of animals, deforestation could decline 94 percent.
According to the climate clock, humans had about 6 years, and 261 days to undo the negative effect we’ve had on the environment, before the earth becomes irrevocably damaged. While renewable energies, and other alternative resources will surely play a major part, society must recognize the environmental benefits veganism can provide before it’s too late. By making the switch to vegan, or at least to flexitarian, consumers can help combat climate change on an individual level.