The Eco-Friendly Benefits of Being Vegetarian

This post was written for Blog Action Day 2011.

Many of us make a big effort to be ‘green’ by doing things like recycling, using the car less and saving energy in the home but did you know that you could do even more for the environment by not eating meat? Being vegetarian may predominantly be a lifestyle choice but there are also some strong eco benefits too that many people are not even aware of. Here are some of the main environmental problems associated with producing meat, and the big benefits that would happen if more of us went down the meat-free route.

# 1 – More food and water available

Breeding animals to produce meat is more damaging to the planet than you might think, thanks in part to the food and water that is needed to sustain them. This is depleting crops that could otherwise be used to feed people and reduce the devastating impact of the global food shortage. It has been suggested that as much as 8 per cent of human water usage comes from producing livestock, and this a lot more compared to the water needed for growing crops. By cutting down on how much meat you eat or ditching it from your diet altogether in favour of vegetarian options, you can do your bit to tackle starvation around the world.

Vegetarian and vegan diets that are largely made up of fruit and vegetables don’t require nearly as many resources as a meat-based diet and are less strenuous on the environment as a result.

# 2 – Less pollution

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization has suggested that almost a fifth of global greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are due to meat production, and that this is a much bigger contributor than carbon dioxide emissions from car usage. The main contributors to this are nitrous oxide and methane, both of which can do considerable damage to the environment. If you want to make a real difference to the amount of emissions going into the atmosphere, it’s not enough to just use your car less – cutting your consumption of meat is arguably more important, especially with meat production expected to rise further over the next few decades.

There is also the added problem of water pollution due to fertilizer and pesticide entering water supplies and potentially contaminating them.

# 3 – More land available

As much as a third of land suitable for farming is currently being used for producing livestock, along with 70 per cent of agricultural land. If less people ate meat on a regular basis, this is a lot of land which could then be used for growing crops to tackle the global hunger crisis.

Other Tips for Making Sure That Your Diet Isn’t Harming the Planet

With some diets having more potential to harm the planet than others, what you eat can have a bigger impact than you might have previously assumed. On top of making a concerted effort to eat less meat or cut it from your diet completely, a ‘green’ diet is also a good move. This focuses on making sure that you choose organic foods that don’t contain artificial pesticides and fertilizers which have the potential to do damage to the environment.

When it comes to helping the environment, adopting a meat-free lifestyle can be one of the best things that you can do to play your part. While acts like saving energy in the home and workplace and walking or using public transport instead of taking the car are undoubtedly important and should still be continued as much as possible, meat production actually contributes more to the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than car usage so it’s definitely something that should be given a lot of thought for the green-minded amongst us.

So, have you considered being a vegetarian? Or are you a vegetarian and if so, what made you switch?


The Eco-Friendly Benefits of Being Vegetarian — 11 Comments

    • @Beating the Index. That’s ok. Not everyone can and to expect that is unrealistic. However, being aware of where you food comes from, what impacts it makes, etc. is important. Even by only eating meat a couple times a week you are still making a big impact and I thank you for that. Get your meat from sustainable sources and then you have it made. Thanks for doing what you can.

    • It does unfortunately. I think it is inflation in general and food is just one of those items that seems to cost more. Glad to hear you don’t eat a lot of meat and focus more on produce. Try out the farmers markets in your area. You can often get a decent price. Also, now that you are settled after your move, try growing some of your own stuff. You can grow things indoors and outdoors. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and greens are really easy.

  1. I became a vegetarian over 3 years ago after reading a book that vividly described the conditions in slaughterhouses, farms, etc. That, combined with an overactive imagination, meant that I was no longer eating meat. It’s only after I stopped eating meat did I learn even more about the effects a meat-based diet has on the environment–what great additional benefits!

    • Thanks for sharing your story. I am like you. It wasn’t until after I educated myself on food and where it comes from that I went vegetarian. I also wanted to be healthier but no longer taking part in the killing of something for my enjoyment was huge. It really is amazing what kind of effects commercial farming really is having on our planet- it is really scary.

  2. Thanks for the knowledge. I’m with BTI, I may be able to cutdown, but going cold turkey might be too difficult. Great points about how meat diets negatively impact our planet. Hypothetically, if you were to push this movement, you might will get huge resistance from all businesses related to the meat production industry. Making people aware is a good start. Thanks!

    • Of course those making money would show a bunch of resistance. They don’t want to lose their profits. However, I think the only reason they have any profits still is because people are unaware about how unethical they operate. Besides the impact on the environment, have you ever seen or heard about how animals are treated. It is horrible what they have to live in these factory farms.

  3. I have been vegetarian for around 10 years now and have never really missed meat. I did eat fish on and off but have not eaten any fish for the last few years as I couldn’t justify killing some animals and not others.

    I’m more or less vegan when feeding myself but allow some vegetarian products when others are feeding me, you have to be moderate as others don’t fully understand veganism.

    Anyway, the suffering is my main issue and the eco benefits are great. Sadly the vege industry is not great either and many veges are fed with meat products…. Things like citrus are fed with fish and many veges are fed with blood and bones. It’s very very hard to be truly vege but we can try our best.

    The ideal situation for lack of suffering and eco-friendliness is growing your own and self-sustaining.

    • You can only try your best. At least that is my motto. I haven’t missed meat either. Plus I feel so much better so that also keeps me motivated. I am like you – I eat vegan at home and when others are feeding me I may compromise on dairy if I need but never meat.

  4. So now you need a post on what the heck I’m supposed to eat, haha! I’m a meat and potatos dude and without the meat, I’m not sure how peopel eat! I never understood the vegetarian thing. Do they just eat beans all the time? ARe they then farty people?

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