Is leaving your car at home for the commute too much hassle? Are solar panels on your roof not an option? Looking for an easier and cheaper way to do your bit for the environment?
More and more studies are showing that perhaps the simplest way to make a considerable reduction in your personal carbon footprint, whilst at the same time improving your health, is to reduce the amount of meat in your diet.
Although the total amount to which it contributes to global climate change varies from study to study (between 18% and 51%), livestock production is broadly recognised as one of the most destructive activities currently driving climate change.
Industrialised livestock produces more greenhouse gases (including methane and nitrous oxide) than all of the CO2 produced by all of the world’s cars, boats, planes and trains combined. It’s surprising, but most people could reduce their carbon footprint more by giving up meat, than giving up their car!
Raising animals to eat is the world’s single largest use of land and accounts for roughly 75% of deforestation. On a local level it negatively impacts air quality and pollutes waterways.
Unfortunately the environmental impacts of livestock production only look set to worsen. In 2012 there were approximately 70 billion animals raised as livestock for 7.1 billion people; by 2050 there will be an extra 2 billion people to feed and a greater demand for meat-based diets in the developing world.
For most meat-eaters, giving up meat entirely is a drastic step; however it’s much easier to just reduce meat intake or substitute meats, such as beef for pork or poultry. Cows require 28 times more land, 11 times more water and cause five times more greenhouse gasses than pigs and chickens.
Reduced meat intake has also been shown to have measurable health benefits. A recent study has shown that just reducing (not eliminating) red and processed meat in the UK’s diet would reduce heart disease, diabetes and bowel cancer by 3% to 12%. Just reducing meat in the diet would increase life expectancy by an average of 12 months for men and 4 months for women.
Why not give it a try? Swap the ham sandwich for an egg sandwich, the steak pie for cheese and onion. Set some meat-free days then look forward to steaks and burgers as a treat, rather than the daily norm – you’ll be doing yourself and the planet a favour.