Is veganism the answer to solving climate change?

Filed in Blog by on February 17, 2020 0 Comments
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can a vegan diet combat climate change  Climate change has become mainstream over the past year. It hit the headlines at the beginning of 2019 and seems to have stayed there – thanks to the brilliant ‘Blue Planet’ effect.

Some of the stories that have been catching my attention have been about our food choices. Many scientists and proponents suggest we need to dramatically reduce our meat and dairy consumption in order to address climate change and to feed ourselves in the future, as food scarcity becomes an issue.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), tell us that driving energy efficient cars or using LED lighting in our homes isn’t enough. They say “If you’re serious about protecting the environment, the most important thing that you can do is stop eating meat, eggs, and dairy products”. They also state that “A University of Chicago study even showed that you can reduce your carbon footprint more effectively by going vegan than by switching from a conventional car to a hybrid.”

In the past I was a vegetarian for over 25 years, but then I started to feel that I wanted meat and fish back in my diet. It was a really hard decision to make and I spent a couple of years researching, what I felt to be, ethical sources of meat. Back then I was more interested in packaging than the overall climate change debate, and the irony was, I could buy local (pasture raised) meat in my own reusable containers or I could buy lentils and rice, shipped thousands of miles in plastic! So I started to discover that eating a local meat-based diet created less landfill for me.

Which, to be honest, supported a view I’ve held for a long time, which is my belief that a local, seasonal diet is the most sustainable of all. And most likely the healthiest too. We’ve become too used to eating strawberries in February, and importing foods that grow brilliantly in our own country.

But now the arguments for and against veganism are raging hard.

So I think I come back to a place I lean to, in most aspects of my life – moderation.

While organisations such as PETA and Veganuary tell us the most important thing we can do is to give up meat, eggs and dairy, we have to consider a much bigger picture.

For example, many vegan convenience foods contain long lists of additives which might not be best for your health (if you’re going to spend time saving the planet, we need you healthy and strong, right?!) and if you’re going to eat coconut products, smash avocados in your toast and add almond milk to everything, you’ll be clocking up a lot of air miles. Then there’s packaging. Unless you’re living on fresh produce, an awful lot of vegan products come in plastic packaging (I’m looking at you falafel).

is veganism the answer to climate change

Having said that, the statistics are compelling. A study conducted by Oxford University indicates that a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions is caused by food production, and 80% of that results from animals. Yet, despite this, the current special report from the IPCC recommends reducing meat consumption, not eliminating it.

So what can we do, while the jury is still out? Here are:

Seven simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint with your diet

  • Keeping moderation in mind, Meat Free Monday is a brilliant way to start reducing meat in your diet. Especially if you, or members of your family, can’t imagine a meal without meat!
  • Veganuary has just finished for this year, but it’s a month-long campaign to encourage people to adopt a vegan diet. It doesn’t really matter what month you try it, just have a go!
  • If you’re local, check out this list of vegan restaurants. A fantastic way to get inspiration for eating vegan at home is to visit a restaurant and sample some dishes. Once you’ve found a couple of favourites you can incorporate them at home.
  • Reducing food waste, any food waste is a great place to start. There are loads of ideas throughout the archives of this site to help you. When you consider that one third of the food on this planet will never reach a human stomach, it’s the obvious place to start.
  • Grow some of your own food – even if it’s a few sprouted seeds on the worktop, a couple of herbs on the kitchen windowsill or a hanging basket of tomatoes, you can try something. This will provide you packaging free, seasonal food without any air miles – to me this has to be the best way to eat.
  • Support local producers. Is there a local farm shop, farmers market, artisan baker, or greengrocer you could support. By developing a relationship with these people in your neighbourhood you’ll begin to learn about food miles and the growing season.
  • Reducing is the first of the 3 Rs, so adopt this with your foods too – reduce the amount of meat and dairy products you use and see how you get on.

As you’ll know from reading this blog, the most important thing you can do to ensure success is to start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself, keep yourself accountable and celebrate the small wins.

What about you – do you think veganism is an important part of the climate change conundrum, or are there more effective ways to reduce our carbon footprint?

vegan diets and climate change

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

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