Vegetarianism is a growing trend, and Americans are eating less meat than ever before. Many are embracing the flexitarian lifestyle, which is based upon the idea of cutting down on one’s meat consumption. There are many reasons why people take on a vegetarian diet, including food preferences, health benefits such as weight loss and a reduction of diseases, an increase in energy, to save money, food safety concerns or compassion for animals.
One significant aspect of vegetarianism that is sometimes overlooked is the ecological impact that accompanies a plant-based diet. There are several reasons why vegetarian diets are more ecologically sound than diets based on meat. For instance, animal protein requires about 8 times more fossil fuel emissions than the emissions released for a comparable amount of plant protein. (http://www.chooseveg.com/conservation.asp) In addition, meat production requires huge amounts of land, and grazing leads to erosion and eventual desertification. Grazing land and land for feed crops currently makes up 30 percent of the Earth’s land mass. Meat production also uses enormous amounts of water. It takes over than 2,400 gallons of water to produce only 1 pound of meat, whereas growing 1 pound of wheat requires 25 gallons. (http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/meat-wastes-natural-resources.aspx)
Livestock farming is a possible contributor to global warming, as cows release methane, which is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Finally, livestock farming creates runoff, which contaminates waterways and soil. Spillage from waste storage lagoons is also responsible for polluting aquatic ecosystems. Simply put, there are many facets of vegetarian diets that help to protect our environment and reduce personal carbon footprints.
Written by Leslie Wolf, class of 2015