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Environmental Impact on the Food Industry

By Ally Rau

More and more people around the world are changing their diets to become vegetarian or vegan, but is it really better for the environment? This is something that many are trying to figure out. A vegetarian diet consists of not eating any animal meat, but by-products like eggs or yogurt are still enjoyed. A vegan diet does not include any part of an animal or its byproducts. Vegetarian and vegan diets have many effects on the environment, both positive and negative. “I think that eating vegetarian even just a couple times a day or three times a week, is going to help the earth,” Cora Adams (11) said. Adams has been vegetarian for around two years and was previously vegan.

Vegetarian and vegan diets are plant-based, with a majority of meals based on fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins. These take a lot less water to grow. A chicken could, according to vegetarian society, take up to 542 liters of water to grow whereas fruit trees may only need a few gallons. Around 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from farming. InsideClimate News states, “the world's food and agricultural systems produce more than a quarter of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, and nearly two-thirds of those emissions are linked to animal products.” According to Green Eatz, many of the emissions come from animals breathing out methane and even cows release gas. While animals give off methane, some plants can as well. CNN reports that rice has a very large carbon footprint because it releases a lot of methane. Emissions also come from the transportation and packaging of all the food we eat. However, eating a vegetable diet results in two and a half times fewer emissions being put into the air. Many people do not realize the effects animals have on the environment. “People will watch a documentary on how food is made and the production of it all, and then will go vegan or vegetarian,” Adams said. There should be more information out there so that everyone is educated about where their food comes from.

One of the biggest environmental impacts is the amount of land that is used for the use of agriculture. According to Our World in Data, agriculture uses about 50 percent of earth's habitable land and livestock uses about 77 percent of that land. Livestock takes up a lot of land, and some natural resources have been taken down to make more room for food to grow. Overall it has an environmental advantage to being vegetarian or vegan because less greenhouse gas emissions are going into the air.

One of the biggest ways to help is to waste less food and think about the food that you are eating and buying because, in the end, it could make a really big difference.

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