In spite of recommendations, being a vegetarian is actually worse for the environment and may contribute much more to climate change than being a meat-eater. The topic has been red hot considering the Paris Conference that took place earlier this month. However, the health of the population has been the front-and-center for a longer time.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the population is encouraged to indulge in vegetables, fruits, dairy, and seafood. They’re a significant part of anyone’s healthy diet. However, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) found that by respecting those guidelines, people are damaging the environment.
Lettuce is 3 times worse than bacon
Their study highlights the issue that what is healthy for us might not necessarily be healthy for the planet. Various crops in agriculture that grow some of the most common vegetables actually emit more greenhouse gasses than the pork or poultry industry. Those foods actually leave behind a more harmful environmental footprint per calorie, as they require much more energy, water, and increase greenhouse gas emissions.
According to one of the researchers, Paul Fishbeck, common vegetables such as eggplants, cucumbers, or celery are particularly bad when production is concerned. However, lettuce, for example, is three times worse to the environment than bacon. It may be healthier to humans, but the USDA guidelines recommended consumption of the green leaves would cause more damage.
The researchers looked over the food supply in the United States, patterns of consumption, and the environmental cost. This included matters such as obesity, transportation of food, storage, sales, and all other situations where energy and water are being used.
Daily calories from vegetables increase GHG emissions by 6%
They found that eating fewer calories and reducing weight does have a good impact on the environment. It reduced energy use, water use, and decreased greenhouse gas emissions by 9%. Which means that obesity is, in fact, harmful and it’s encouraging climate change due to the extra use of energy. However, the situation is not the same for those strictly listening to the USDA guidelines.
By following the official recommendations, specifically the healthy mix of fruits, vegetables, dairy, and seafood daily, the impact is much worse than eating your day-to-day calories from meat. According to the researchers, it would cause the energy use to go up by 38%, the water use by 10%, and the greenhouse gas emissions by 6%.
It’s a significant observation, as it’s important to eat healthy, but how you do it can also have an effect on the planet as a whole. According to co-author of the study, Michelle Tom, it’s a “complex relationship between diet and the environment”. It’s important for the public to know that not all vegetables are good for the world, just as how not all meats are bad.
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