Environment – Facts & Stats

The great thing about a plant-based diets is that it is part of a solution to so many things, contributing to better health, less pollution, reduced greenhouse gases, less world hunger and less animal suffering.

The environmental benefits alone are a great reason to shift towards a plant-based diet. With over 60 billion animals (more than 6 million every hour) raised for human consumption every year the impact on the environment is significant, and that number doesn’t even include fish.  Here are some facts and stats to show how things stack up.

Greenhouse Gases:

  • The United Nations estimates that that livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire transport sector.
  • The livestock sector accounts for nearly 10% of human-induced carbon dioxide emissions, 37% of methane and 65% of nitrous oxide.  Methane is approximately 23 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas and nitrous oxide is 296 times more powerful.
  • If everyone in the US ate no meat or cheese just 1 day a week it would be like not driving 91 billion miles – or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.
  • On average, 20% of meat’s greenhouse gases comes from uneaten meat.

Deforestation:

  • In 2011, livestock operations account for 30% of the earth’s land surface use.
  • Nearly 70% of deforested land in the Amazon is exploited for grazing.
  • A land area equivalent to 7 football fields is destroyed in the Amazon basin every minute.
  • For each hamburger produced from animals raised on rainforest land, approximately 55 sq ft of forest have been destroyed.

Pollution, Water & Soil:

  • According to a 1997 report by the Senate Agriculture Committee, animals raised for slaughter produce 130 times as much waste as the entire human population, which ends up in groundwater and streams.
  • Livestock production also contributes to air pollution. In B.C. surplus manure from the Fraser Valley’s 128,000 cattle, 95,500 pigs, 767,000 turkeys and 15.4 million chickens produces large amounts of ammonia. Ammonia can react with other pollutants to form fine particulates, which can be harmful to respiratory health.
  • Water use worldwide is 2-5 times greater for crops grown to feed animals than for basic crops.
  • The Environmental Protection agency estimates that 1 pound of processed beef requires 2,500 gallons of water.  Only 250 gallons are needed for 1 pound of soy, and just 25 gallons for 1 pound of wheat.
  • Animal farming accounts for about 55% of soil erosion, and the soil is being depleted at 10-40 times the rate it is being formed.

Feeding the world:

  • Worldwide farmed animals consume 756 million tons of grain.  This amount of grain is twice the amount that would be needed to feed the 1.4 billion people living in poverty.  This figure does not include the 225 million tons of soy produced annually, most of which is consumed by farmed animals.

Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet:

If everyone in the US adopted a plant-based diet for just one day it would conserve:

  • 100 billion gallons of drinking water
  • 1.5 billion pounds of crops
  • 70 million gallons of gasoline
  • 33 tons of antibiotics

and the following environmental damage would be prevented:

  • 1.2 million tons of CO2 greenhouse emissions
  • 3 million tons of soil erosion
  • 4.5 million tons of animal waste
  • 7 tons of ammonia emissions
Approximately 18% of people in the US take part in Meatless Mondays to improve their health and reduce their impact on the environment.  Imagine the positive impact we could have if 18% of Canadians did Meatless Mondays too!
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Sources:
Forks Over Knives.  The Plant-Based Way to Health
Environmental Working Group.  Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change.
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