New Study: A Flexitarian Diet Can Reduce Your footprint by 30%
Adopting a more plant-based diet can have a significant positive impact on the planet. This change doesn't require becoming vegetarian or vegan overnight but rather adopting a flexitarian approach by replacing a portion of meat with plant protein.
30% of it, to be precise.
A report published in November 2023 suggests that making this small switch in our lifestyles can help mitigate the triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity.
Going meat-free twice a week can tremendously help the planet
Animal agriculture contributes to approximately 15% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This contribution primarily stems from ruminants' (cows and sheep) digestive processes and manure management, which directly release methane, as well as from deforestation for soy animal feed production, which leads to indirect emissions.
To reduce the GHG emissions from methane, we have been actively focusing on developing solutions that reduce cattle methane emissions. This includes utilizing microbiome-based solutions and feeding methane-suppressing products to cattle.
There is another easier way to approach this problem.
According to the report, reducing conventional meat production by 30% by 2030, compared to a 2021 baseline, would save approximately 700 million tons of CO2-equivalent emissions, equivalent to the annual emissions of Saudi Arabia.
Livestock farming occupies 77% of the world's agricultural land, accounting for 50% of habitable land. Surprisingly, despite this extensive land use, it only provides 18% of global calorie production and 37% of global protein production.
Replacing 30% meat with plant protein would free up land equivalent to the size of India, which can be used to enhance biodiversity and help absorb more carbon from the atmosphere.
It would also save 18.9 cubic kilometers of water, enough to fill 7.5 million Olympic-sized swimming pools' worth of water every year.
Doing so would save the lives of 100 million cows, 420 million pigs, and over 22 billion chickens per year.
Some countries need to reduce their meat consumption more than others
The research acknowledges that low-income countries face challenges and inequalities in food security but does not propose a global reduction in animal-based protein consumption.
According to leading health scientists and nutritionists at The EAT-Lancet, Americans and Canadians consume six times the recommended amount of red meat. Similarly, citizens of the EU, UK, Argentina, and Brazil consume four times the recommended amount.
If residents in these countries can become flexitarian and replace 30% of their beef, pork, and chicken consumption with a combination of whole foods and novel plant-based meat products, it would have a positive impact on the entire world.