Foodprints for the Future

Plant-based foods fuel conversations on Earth Day Live

On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we saw the power of a united voice. We also saw the power of plant-based foods — for people and the planet.  

Professional ice hockey player Zdeno Chára has been on a plant-based diet for several years. On a video posted on Twitter Wednesday, he said since he made the switch, his focus and energy was consistent, if not better.

“Choosing to eliminate eating meat and dairy and going plant based helped me elevate not just my performances but also my wellbeing,” said Chára. “What we eat can help our planet… We have the power to make a change for better.”

Chára joined a handful of athletes, who announced their support for plant-based diets on Earth Day Live, including baseball player Chase Utley, hockey player Georges Laraque, football player Derrick Morgan, soccer gold medalist Heather Mitts and cycling silver medalist Dotsie Bausch.

Plant-based foods nourish both human and planetary health. The United Nations estimates that animal agriculture accounts for at least 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And one of the biggest impacts you can have on your individual carbon footprint is to eat more plant-based foods. Going vegan for two-thirds of meals could cut your food-related carbon emissions by 60%, and full veganism could cut individual emissions by 85%. 

Studies also show that eating red and processed meats increases health risks, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Plus, all the supposed benefits of meat — the protein, iron and zinc — is easily obtained through a plant-based diet.

A panel of experts and activists dove into these misconceptions, as well as the power of plant-based diets in a video that aired on Earth Day. The conversation was framed around a study published this year by Earth Day Network and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. 

Throughout the day, organizations and people around the world also showcased plant-based recipes. Thirteen-year-old activist Genesis Butler made fajitas. Chef and cookbook author Jason Wrobel cooked up rice and beans. And, actor Ed Begley, Jr. and his family simultaneously hosted Earth Day Live and made a salad with ingredients grown in their backyard.

“I became a vegetarian back in 1970 with the first Earth Day — I’ve since refined it to become a vegan,” said Begley, responding to a tweet on the live broadcast. “It’s a good way to eat, it’s good for the planet and it’s good for my health. It’s one of the most important things you can do [to combat climate change].”

Some people go plant based for ethical reasons — like activist Seane Corn, who initially became a vegan to save some animals. The more she learned about the environmental impacts of animal agriculture, though, the more vocal she became.

“When you consume animals, there is an industry behind it that is dependent on the world’s natural resources,” she said on the Earth Day Live stream. “Not eating meat… also means we are protecting the earth and not contributing to an industry who does not care about her health or wellness or sustainability.” 

No matter the reason for adopting a plant-based diet, in the words of Bausch during the panel, you’re taking “the single most impactful step that you can take as an individual to fight climate change.” 

As we’re all shut in for the foreseeable future, now is a great time to try some of these recipes. Earth Day Network also has some plant-based recipes to try while at home. And for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Earth Day Network partnered with A Well-Fed World to create a climate-friendly EcoFoodGuide

For more information about the carbon footprints of our food choices, check out Earth Day Network’s Footprint for the Future.