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Can the Food You Eat End Climate Destruction?

Eating a plant based diet has been a topic near and dear to my heart for quite some time. While there are tons of really amazing health and wellness benefits to eating a plant based, or vegan diet, we aren’t going in that direction today. Each vegetarian/vegan has their own reasons for choosing this lifestyle. As a long time Nutrition Coach and Personal Trainer, the health benefits of a plant based diet absolutely floor me, but my own personal reasons for living a plant based lifestyle is largely spiritual. The foods we eat affect us in so many different ways including our health, wellness, moods, physical performance, spirituality and happiness….but there’s more to consider. What we eat not only impacts us on a personal level, it affects our community, our country, our climate and our earth in a HUGE way. 

You may be aware that our food system has some implications on the climate, but you may not realize how tremendous this impact is. A study published in the Journal of Science created a database of nearly 40,000 farms in 119 countries that represent 90% of the world’s food supply. This study assessed the full impact of this food production, from farm to fork on land use, climate change, emissions, freshwater use, water pollution and air pollution. Ultimately, this study came back with a mind blowing finding…… that adopting a vegan diet is one of the single most effective ways that we can personally reduce our impact on climate destruction. 

The ravaging effects of climate destruction are real,they are scary, and we all want to do our part to put climate destruction to a halt, and ultimately reverse it. I live in Key West. I’m surrounded by beauty and wildlife, both on the land and in the ocean. The lush tropical foliage is home to so many beautiful species of birds, butterflies and so much more. When I take our Chocolate Lab, Bear for our morning runs, I see sea rays and sea turtles swimming in the water as we pass by. Whether you live in the mountains, the forest, or the city, I know that you want to preserve this beautiful earth that we live on, and the delicate balance that all living things rely on. The amazing news is that we have plenty of personal power, and the ability to create the change that we need! 

Studies go on to say that while recycling, greatly reducing the use of plastics, cutting down on flights, and switching to electric cars are great ways to lessen our impact, cutting animal products out of our diet is far more effective. Let’s take a look at some numbers. In the United States, 80% of our farmland is dedicated to raising livestock. This livestock produce just 18% of our food while producing a whopping 58% of greenhouse gas emissions. Let’s compare this with the 23% of farmland that is used to produce plant based food, and provides us with 82% of our total calories consumed! 

Livestock production is the single largest driver of habitat loss. In the Amazon rainforest, which plays a huge role in regulating the earth’s oxygen levels, 80% of the deforestation is due to cattle production. The excess carbon that we are producing could technically nourish the growth of the forest, but as the earth’s temperatures rise, these effects are negated. In fact, reports are already showing that forests near the equator are suffering from heat stress and losing vegetation. 

Next, let’s take into consideration the amount of water required to grow food. It takes 39 gallons of water to grow one pound of vegetables. Compare this to the 1,847 gallons of water needed to grow just ONE POUND of beef! Did you know that nearly HALF of the water used in the United States goes towards raising livestock? We must also recognize that grazing cattle cause soil erosion, and their excrement pollutes our waters, eventually contaminating groundwater. Along with fertilizers and pesticides, this excrement spills into our water supply, stimulates algae growth, depletes oxygen in marine ecosystems, and eventually leads to destruction and mass die offs in marine life. I don’t know about you, but I’d take any steps I can to keep my little sea turtles and beloved manatee safe and healthy!  

I know that the effects of climate destruction sound scary. They are. But we have the power to put an end to this destruction and bring our earth back into balance! When choosing the foods that you eat, consider that you are also choosing major effects on land use, water supply, greenhouse gas emissions, and water pollution. The very first question we must ask is “Where is our food coming from?”

I’m not suggesting that we all should jump into veganism (although it would certainly make quite an impact!!!) If we all simply cut down on meat consumption, lean into a plant based lifestyle just a little bit more, and make sure that the meat products we do purchase are sustainable, organic and locally grown, we’d all be doing a part in restoring balance back to this beautiful earth that we all call home! 

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