An assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables

By Jacey Gould

You hear it everywhere: if you want to save the planet, you should have a vegan diet. This is because the amounts of greenhouse gas emissions involved in the meat industry are hurting the environment.

The Truth About Animal Agriculture

The Harvard University Office for Sustainability states:

“There is a huge array of factors involved in the environmental impacts of eating meat. Using plant products to feed livestock requires large amounts of land use and leads to deforestation. The use of grain, soy and corn as feed is much less efficient than if [humans were to directly consume them]. The entire process of meat production, from agriculture to animal farming, requires enormous amounts of water. It produces greenhouse gas emissions, waste and pollution. On top of it all, it may pose health risks.”

And yes, animal agriculture is one of the reasons why the fire in the Amazon rainforest is burning down.

Modifying Your Diet

If everyone on earth were to eat as much meat as Western countries, there would be extremely negative effects. So people are doing the best they can to go vegan. But there’s just one problem with this: what if you can’t go vegan, or you just don’t want to? Is there still something you can change in your diet to help the earth?

The answer is yes. Although going vegan is considered the best diet to help combat climate change, there is another option called flexitarianism.

Flexitarianism

A flexitarian is a person who eats plant-based foods when possible for them. For example, some flexitarians simply make a point to have at least one purely plant-based meal every day. Some may set a limit to a certain quantity of meat per week.

It all depends on what works for your lifestyle. I would like to go vegan, but I have health issues that cause my body to need more protein than others do. I am also in college, where there is a very limited quantity of plant-based protein options. Being largely grain-free in my diet, I do not eat as many carbohydrates per day as most people. This means I rely on fats and protein for most of my energy.

As a flexitarian, I choose to eat at least one plant-based meal each day. When I do eat meat, I am conscious of what kind of meat I am eating. Namely, I tend to avoid red meat.

The Impacts of Beef and Dairy

Although red meat has recently been found to not be terribly harmful to one’s health, it is bad for the environment because dairy/beef farming has the largest environmental impact of all other animal agriculture.

This is also the reason why I choose to not eat dairy products. If you don’t think you could be a flexitarian, cutting out only red meats and dairy from your diet would also help the environment in a significant way.

The Mediterranean Diet

Of course, yet another diet change that helps the environment is a Mediterranean diet.

This type of diet consists of mostly nuts, beans, fish, and vegetables, and occasionally other types of meat. Eating fish has shown to increase one’s lifespans. Fish also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are excellent for the heart.

Other Ways to Help the Planet

If you have considered all of these options and still do not think giving up meat is right for you, there are other ways to help the planet besides changing your eating habits. For example, vote for politicians who promise to establish environmental protection policies. You can also decide to stop using single-use plastics, or you could decide to travel more sustainably. There are many environmentally-friendly ways to travel: you can carpool, ride a bicycle (with a helmet!), or hop on a train to travel around your area.

The point is this: although it would be nice, the fact is that the whole world is not going to be vegan. So how do we save the planet? By doing our best, each one of us. What’s important is that we all work to reduce our environmental impact in whatever ways we are able to do so. It’s all about pitching in for the cause however you can.