Earth Day Network

Eat your way to a sustainable future

Should you go vegan?

It’s for the environment, or so the argument goes for why you should convert to veganism. But is going vegan really the best option for a sustainable future?

A recent study published in Elementa examined how efficient producing a vegan diet was compared to nine other diets, varying on levels of vegetable based, to meat based. As it turns out, a vegan diet is less sustainable than a vegetarian diet, and two variances of an omnivore diet. However, the measure in which the researchers calculated sustainability was by measuring how much of the population could be fed by each diet on the same amount of land, compared to the other diets.

Is this really a measure of sustainability?

What makes a diet sustainable?

How much land we use for agriculture, of course, isn’t the only problem we must focus on when looking into our current agricultural practices. One analysis contradicts the Elementa’s findings that other diets are more sustainable than a vegan diet, and that land-use is the measure for sustainable agriculture. It concluded that if everyone in the world suddenly become vegan, than we would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level that is half what the rate was between 2005 and 2007.

As our global population grows, and demand for food increases, so too do the unsustainable practices that still have a hold on the agricultural sector of the global economy. Though reducing greenhouse gases will be on the forefront of the environmental movement until they cease to be a significant threat, we need to start focusing on other related areas, such as land use. The Elementa study brings up the excellent point that we can’t continue to use more and more land to feed the world, because as our species looks to feed itself, other species lose their natural habitats, or we lose the potential to reuse misused farmland. The more land we use for specific crops, the less land and the less biodiversity that the natural flora and fauna can thrive off of.

So what do we do?

You cannot just choose one solution over the other, and that’s why we need to start concentrating our efforts on not only reducing greenhouse gases, but also on making our agricultural land use sustainable for our future generations, and for the future generations of the wildlife we share the land with. There are certain practices you can adopt to make a difference and help take things in a sustainable direction. Whether you want to switch to veganism, try out vegetarian cuisine, or enhance how you shape your omnivore diet, it’s clear that changing our eating habits will help contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the overuse of land for farming. So next time you are at the grocery store, weigh the benefits and downfalls of what you’ll be making for dinner.

 

Colleen Wanner, Intern