How a Plant Based Diet Could Be Better for the Planet (& you!)

 
 Vegetables | How a Plant Based Diet is Better for the Planet (& you!) | Eco-friendly living by The Foraged Life

There was a time when telling a waiter in a restaurant you were vegetarian or, heaven forbid, vegan, would be met with a baffled face. They would have rushed to the kitchen to see what the chef could hash out and you'd be lucky if you got offered anything more than chips and salad. Fortunately, this isn't the case anymore. The rise in people adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet is huge (a study published in 2016 showed veganism is up by 350% since the same estimate 10 years ago) and one of the main influences so many vegans or vegetarians cite as part of their conversion is having watched one of many infamous documentaries. Docs like {click to watch their trailers}:

Earthlings

LIVE AND LET LIVE

cowspiracy

food matters

get vegucated

what the health

It's the reasons why these documentaries are converting previous carnivores to a plant based diet left, right and centre that's important in this blog post though. Resoundingly it's because a a plant based diet (encompassing both a vegan and vegetarian diet) is better for the planet and for you. 

Just to be clear though, before I share some of the reasons a plant based diet is better for the planet and you, it might be helpful to share how this diet buzzwood is defined*.

Plant Based Diet: A plant based diet is one that is mainly made up of foods derived from plants. That includes, vegetables, fruits, whole grains (like oats, rice and barley), nuts, legumes (like chickpeas and lentils) and seeds. 

As for why a plant based diet is better for the planet and you, let's take a look...


 

 

1. You'll cut your carbon footprint

A huge percentage of greenhouse gas emissions comes from livestock production- that means from the animals raised to feed us. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates 14.5% while the Worldwatch Institute say it could be as much as 51%. Those huge numbers come from the transportation of the animals, the energy used to grow the food that feeds them and, the largest percentage comes from the manure they produce! Manure produces methane and methane is a whole lot more potent than even carbon dioxide- warming the earth 30 times faster. Because of that, cutting meat from your diet, or even simply reducing it, can knock a big dent in your carbon footprint.

 

2. you'll protect precious habitats

The statistics are mad - our global population has doubled since the 1960s while our global meat production has quadrupled. With more animals being reared to feed us, more and more food is grown to feed them. Degradation of land of huge portions of the planet through processes of desertification and deforestation (in Brazil 5.6 million acres of land is used to grow soya beans for animals in Europe) is taking place just to grow the food animals need. These diverse landscapes (like the Amazon) that are being deforested in this way is even pushing some species to extinction. Adopting a plant based lifestyle will ensure greater portions of the planet remain the precious habitats they are and protected. More than that, land can be strategically used to feed people not animals and, when great numbers of people around the world are malnourished, that's a big deal. 

Studies indicate that a varied vegan diet requires about a third of the land needed for conventional Western diets; 3.5 billion humans could live off the food currently fed to livestock.

{The Vegan Society}

 

3. You'll conserve water

Eating animals is seriously resource intensive (we got a bit of a sense of that above). It's not just in terms of land and energy though- it's water too. Farming accounts for 70% of water consumption worldwide, with most of that being used for the irrigation of crops. To give some context:

 It  requires 15,500 litres of water to produce 1 kg beef; this can be contrasted to 180 litres for 1 kg tomatoes and 250 litres for 1 kg potatoes

{World Water Week}

Most crops grown for animal feed are done so in developing or middle income countries too, where water is often a scarce resource. That means that switching to a plant based diet results in a great deal of water conserved worldwide and also in the protection of communities where water is a scarce precious commodity. 

 

4. You'll Protect animals from cruelty

If you do get around to watching any of the documentaries I listed above you'll quickly learn one of the primary reasons people feel led to adopt a plant based diet is the cruelty that is done to animals in the process of transforming them from living, breathing beings to the cling wrapped meat we find in our supermarkets. Factory farming (where most of the meat we consume comes from) is often synonymous with inhumane practices.

 

5. It's better for your health

I'm sure you're aware of the number of athletes and celebrities that wax lyrical about the health benefits they have experienced since transitioning to a plant based diet. The great news is that those experiences are rooted in science:

There’s lots of well-controlled science and research to show that adopting a predominantly plant-based diet probably has the biggest impact on health [compared to other diets] for all the chronic diseases

{Rick Miller from the British Dietetic Association}

Lots of people who transition to a plant based diet also speak of higher levels of energy, reduced pms, better skin, lower levels of stress and weight loss. This experience though of course has to be balanced with an understanding of how you feel in your body. It's recommended to check in with a doctor or nutritionist if you do transition to a plant based diet so they can check for any deficiencies you might experience and you can supplement or adjust your diet accordingly.

 

*A Side Note

I haven't eaten animals for three years and, to be honest, that still baffles me. I can't really fathom that eating any other way has been part of my story, but I guess that's the point- our relationship with food is an evolving journey. Out of those three years I've been 'strictly' vegan for part of that time too but would describe my journey now (if it's helpful) as one that is vegan the majority of the time.

Part of my journey is also trying not to get too hung up on boxes on the sort of food labels I've just used! I recognise that they can be helpful at times but, to be honest, I'm just feeling it out as I go; as I learn to listen to both my body and learn more of the needs of the planet and the other life we share it with.

What I do know for sure though, is that transitioning to a plant based diet has, for me, been a journey of deep nourishment. It's more deeply connected me to not only my own body, establishing a more healthy relationship with food, but also with the planet. 

I know too though that beginning a journey which sees you unlearn food habits and ideas learned and imbibed over a lifetime is hard. I totally get it. But is it worth exploring? For me, the reasons in this blog and the wellness I've experienced makes the answer to that question a resounding yes. 


I'll be sharing some amazing resources for starting out exploring a plant based diet soon but in the mean time, ask any questions you have or share your foody experience below...