Save the Planet: Eat Less Meat


Care2 Earth Month: Back to Basics

This year, Care2 decided to expand Earth Day into Earth Month, since there is so much to explore when it comes to the environment. Every day in April, well have a post about some of the most important topics for the environment, exploring and explaining the basics. Its a great tool to help you get started with helping the environment or help explain it to others. See the whole series here.

What if you could make one immediate change in your life that would significantly decrease global warming and other damage to the environment? Great news: you can. Stop eating meat.

Perhaps the best thing you can do to save the environment is eat a plant-based diet, according to the United Nations, Sierra Club, Worldwatch Institute, Al Gore’s Live Earth, and many others. Even replacing just some of the meat you eat with grains, vegetables, legumes, fruit, and other plant-based foods can make a big difference.

Just changing the source of your meat won’t do much. As a recent New York Times op-ed by James E. McWilliams explained, there is no such thing as ecologically sustainable meat. Local, organic, free-range — all of it takes or will lead to a surprisingly large toll on the environment.

Meat production may be the most important reason for global warming, which results almost entirely from a combination of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Raising animals for food is a major source of carbon dioxide and the single largest source of the other two gases: 37% of methane and 65% of nitrous oxide emissions, as Kathy Freston reports in The Huffington Post. The United Nations has concluded that eating a vegan diet “is vital to save the world from the worst impacts of climate change,” according to The Guardian.

The livestock industry is largely responsible for deforestation, which obliterates ecosystems that would otherwise absorb carbon dioxide. According to Freston, “Animal agriculture takes up an incredible 70% of all agricultural land, and 30% of the total land surface of the planet. As a result, farmed animals are probably the biggest cause of slashing and burning the world’s forests. Today, 70% of former Amazon rainforest is used for pastureland, and feed crops cover much of the remainder.” Clearing all this land for pasture and feed crops also shrinks or eliminates the habitats for countless species of wildlife.

Just cutting back on your meat consumption has an impact. Al Gore’s Live Earth organization reports that “If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save: 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months and 70 million gallons of gas, enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare.” Joining the “Meatless Monday” movement, which encourages people to eat no meat for one day every week, could go a long way.

Driving a Prius doesn’t even approach the impact of eating less meat. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, “if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” A University of Chicago study confirms that in terms of fossil fuel consumption, there is “an order of magnitude” difference “between dietary and personal transportation choices.” What is on your plate matters much more than what is in your garage.

Climate change isn’t the only ill that the meat industry generates. Freston notes that “raising animals for food is a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution [including the ammonia that causes acid rain, and] loss of biodiversity.” The livestock industry alone is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global,” according to the U.N.’s report.

We don’t need to eat all this meat. We’d actually be healthier without it, as meat consumption plays a role in causing our three biggest killers: heart disease, cancer and stroke. To help protect the environment and your health, visit the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine for a free Vegetarian Starter Kit. The earth will thank you.


Related Stories:

New UN Report Says Vegan Diet Vital To Saving The Environment, Curbing Fossil Fuel Use

Eat Less Meat to Fight Climate Change

Cutting Meat and Dairy Can Reduce Global Warming Gases Greatly

Photo Credit: penarc


Aaron F
Past Member about a year ago

I eat my OWN humanely raised and slaughtered quit preaching AT me...

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Karen Foley
Karen P6 years ago

Some people crack me up! Recently I woke up and my Mum informed me that a truck transporting about 400 sheep had overturned in a bad accident and the sheep had died. I replied "well they were going to get it anyway weren't they?" To which she replied "NOT like that!" "NO, indeed!" I replied. They get treated like bloody royalty at the slaughterhouse!

Waltraud U.
Waltraud U6 years ago

Glad to eat vegan ! TY

Waltraud U.
Waltraud U6 years ago


Dale Overall

Am getting tired of all the self assured vegans and vegetarians telling me not to eat meat-especially when they tell me that eating less meat is not enough!
Well, too bad, so sad I am a carnivore and limit my meat intake to a deck of cards per serving. Many days I eat quinoa which is a very tasty meat alternative or buckwheat groats (Kasha) and now get told by Dr. Mercola (go google him) that eating whole grains is bad for me. Well, gee, everything seems to be bad for me-he even lambastes rices, rye and other grains which I enjoy eating as well).
Then others tell me that while eating fruit, do not eat lettuce or other foods with it as this brings out toxins...sure, sure, my dietician says that is another myth but so many seem to believe this.
The human body was designed to eat meat, veggies and other tasty things-some now say even multivitamins are out!
We all feed on death relatively speaking even vegetarians and vegans. Not to mention the odd tiger that samples human meat and then the poor thing gets shot because man has been encroaching on its environment. Yes, I know, some of the vegans will ask tigers to feast on my bones and meat given some of their comments to meat eaters.
Even if there is no meat, veggie growing with all the fertilizers and genetically modified crud going on affects global warming and the environment not to mention the excess lettuce people toss in the landfill causing methane gas...sorry I will keep on eating my small amounts of meat and th

Dale Overall

To continue with my comment from below which got lopped off because I do not know the exact word count and Care2 has no Twitter like mechanism to tell me when my comments are getting too long....

Even if there is no meat, veggie growing with all the fertilizers and genetically modified crud going on affects global warming and the environment not to mention the excess lettuce people toss in the landfill causing methane gas...sorry I will keep on eating my small amounts of meat and the planet will live on. Those scarfing down three steaks a day, well - go and bother them!

Julie H.
Julie Hoffman6 years ago

im deff eating less meat

Carole Hunt
Carole Hunt6 years ago

I would love to see the meat and dairy industry shaking in their boots. The world is becoming better educated regarding the horrors of factory farming and its unhealthy produce. Simple really, a true animal lover doesnt eat animals. There is no difference between eating a cow or pig than eating a dog or cat. They are all animals who equally deserve a life.

Julia W.
Julia W6 years ago

eat less dairy products.