Why Changing Your Diet Might be the best thing you can do for the planet

Updated: May 7, 2020

In recent times, many people have been moving to a more sustainable lifestyle by using electric vehicles, planting trees or ditching plastic. Unfortunately, there still has been no positive change in the state of our planet and our environment is deteriorating faster than ever before. Scientists predict that the oceans could be devoid of fish by the year 2048. Some scientists estimate that up to half of the existing plant and animal species may become extinct by 2100. We are amidst a mass extinction with a scale not seen since the time dinosaurs got wiped out 65 million years ago. The problem is that few people are aware of the major contributors to environmental degradation. The population is told to plant a tree if they are to stop global warming. Unfortunately, if you want to save a sinking ship, taking out a bucket of water from a flooded bulkhead will not save it. If we are to save our ship from sinking, we must seal the hole in its keel.

The major drivers behind human-caused environmental disasters are burning of fossil fuels for energy production and agriculture (mainly crop production for livestock farming), accounting for 25% and 24% of total greenhouse gas emissions, respectively. There is a massive potential to reduce emissions from both these sources. Today we would like to focus on how unchecked food production can have drastic effects on the environment that we live with.

Here are some food products that can have a dangerous environmental footprint:

1. Beef and Dairy: One pound of beef takes approximately 1799 gallons (6810 liters) of water, 298 square feet of land, 26.8 pounds(12.156 kg) of grain, 4144 BTU’s of energy to produce and releases the equivalent of 53.6 pounds(24.312 kg) of carbon dioxide. Since they come from the same source, the environmental impact of dairy is the same as that of beef. Consider switching to mock-meats and plant-based dairy products.

2.Lamb: Lamb has the greatest impact, generating 39.3 kg (86.4 lbs) of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) for each kilo eaten–about 50 percent more than beef. While beef and lamb generate comparable amounts of methane and require similar quantities of feed, lamb generates more emissions per kilo in part because it produces less edible meat relative to the sheep’s live weight. Consider switching to mock-meats.

3.Shellfish: Every pound of shellfish puts 24 pounds (10.88 kg) of carbon into the atmosphere. Consider switching to mock-meats.

4.Pork: People may love bacon, but does Mother Nature? Like it or not, pork puts a strain on the environment. At 17 pounds (7.71 kg) of CO2 per pound of meat, a pan of bacon is harder on the planet as it is on your waistline. Consider switching to mock-meats.

5.Chicken and eggs: 5 oz. (150g) of chicken produces greenhouse gases with the equivalent of 2.16 lbs (1 kg) of carbon dioxide, clears 9.04 square feet (0.84 square metres) of animal habitat, uses 83.1 gallons (314.5 liters) of water and produces 0.625 pounds (283 grams) of waste that eventually finds its way into our water bodies, polluting them. Eggs also have the same environmental impact since they come from the same source. Consider switching to mock-meats and plant-based egg substitutes.

6.Fish: When we consume seafood, we are unconsciously hurting the planet more than we think. The harmful modern fishing methods that we practice wipe out entire ecosystems of marine life through bycatch. Trawlers drag anchors along coral reefs, destroying the natural habitat of numerous marine species. Fishing nets makes up for 70% of ocean plastic by weight. It is estimated that 75% of fisheries are exploited. Consider switching to mock-meats.

7.Sugar: The cultivation and processing of sugar produce environmental impacts through the loss of natural habitats, intensive use of water, heavy use of agro-chemicals, discharge and runoff of polluted effluent and air pollution. This leads to the degradation of wildlife, soil, air and water where sugar is produced and of downstream ecosystems. Consider switching to other sweeteners such as maple syrup and coconut sugar.

8.Rice: The analysis shows that nitrous oxide and methane emissions from rice farms could have the same long-term warming impact as 600 coal plants and in the long term. In the short term, it would be the equivalent of 1,200 coal plants in the short term because nitrous oxide emissions are so much more potent than other greenhouse gases. The pesticides used in rice production can find their way into our water bodies. Consider switching to organic brown rice.

9.Palm oil: Oil palm plantations currently cover more than 27 million hectares of the Earth’s surface. Forests and human settlements have been destroyed and replaced by “green deserts” containing virtually no biodiversity in an area the size of New Zealand. As consumers, we are largely unaware of these broader issues, yet our daily palm oil consumption also impacts our health: refined palm oil contains large amounts of harmful fatty acid esters that are known to damage DNA and cause cancer. Consider switching to eco-friendly vegetable oils.

Now that we have discussed the food that harmful to our environment we would like to urge our viewers to cut these products out of their diet and use alternatives to these products so that we can sustainably use the resources that nature has provided us with. This is the only way we can ensure a secure future for both us, and the planet. We hope that our viewers consider switching their diet to a more eco-friendly one.

Edited by Prahalad Sreevas.

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