Learn the five ways that make this diet one for the future.
#Sustainability #Plant-Based #Diets | A Point Counter Point Conversation
Plant-based diets are those in which the primary source of food is from plants, including legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and seeds. Much has been said about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, but there is also growing awareness of the impacts of diet on environmental health and sustainability.
The world is increasingly shifting to diets that include higher amounts of meat — red meat in particular — and to intense industrial animal agricultural practices. This is raising concerns about the impacts on the planet’s ecosystems and the implications for climate change. Here are five reasons why there are calls for moving towards a plant-based diet.
1. Conserve Water
A considerable amount of water gets locked up in our agricultural systems, but the amount of water used varies with what is being grown and where. Switching our protein source from beef and milk to tofu (a complete protein) and oats reduces the amount of water used to produce a staple protein source significantly. To produce a pound of beef, 2,000-8,000 gallons of water are required. Producing a gallon of milk takes 1,950 gallons of water. A pound of tofu and a pound of oats require 302 and 290 gallons of water, respectively.
2. Reduce Water Pollution
The application of nutrients on our crops in the form of manure or chemical fertilizers is a standard practice. When these are added, however, not all of the nutrients are absorbed by the crops and can instead seep into groundwater or runoff into waterways, creating dead zones and polluting the water. Furthermore, feed lots collect animal waste in lagoons that can runoff or spillover and also end up in ground or surface water. Removing meat from the diet reduces the number of toxins seeping and flowing into our water sources.
3. Conserve Arable Land
There is a growing concern for how to adequately feed the world as the global population continues to rise. Agriculture already occupies approximately 40% of Earth’s arable land, and that ratio continues to grow as more forests are removed to make way for crops. Moving to a plant-based diet means that the arable land currently in production would be used to feed people, not animals. This would reduce the amount of cropland currently needed by 42%.
4. Reduce Emissions
Shifting to a plant-based diet reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions currently associated with agricultural production. Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are all products of agriculture in general. However, plant farming produces less of all three greenhouse gases than meat production utilizing industrial agricultural practices. A plant-based diet could reduce total GHG emissions by approximately 30% or more.
5. Conserve Forests
Our global forests are home to diverse plant and animal species and are responsible for a majority of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. In addition, they act as the planet’s lungs; they breathe in carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. Deforestation is occurring at alarming rates, especially in the Amazon, to make way for agriculture. A plant-based diet reduces the amount of arable land needed for farming, thereby reducing deforestation. In doing so, our forests are able to continue absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen, as well as preserving the world’s biodiversity.
Of course there are more reasons that these simple five, but we want to hear from you. What is your experience with plant based diets? Leave your comments below. Make sure to check out the other side of the debate on why plant based diets are not sustainable.