Following a vegan diet could be better for the environment than eating local produce, according to a recent study.
Researchers looked at the emissions generated by producing various foods including meat, dairy, and plant-based foods that were produced locally and transported internationally. They found that, in terms of food-related emissions, eating plant-based foods is even better for the planet than choosing local produce.
Looking at European diets, meat and dairy products are to blame for the “lion’s share” of greenhouse gas emissions, reports Science Daily.
The average EU citizen has a food footprint of 1070kg of CO2 equivalent per year – roughly the same amount of emissions generated by driving 6,000 km. According to the study, meat and dairy make up more than 75 percent of these emissions, because to produce these items includes not only direct emissions from animal production but also deforestation for feed crops.
“Tracking the greenhouse gas emissions of food production is extremely complicated, and we need better methods to do this. Our goal in the study was to better understand the climate impact of EU diets, and how international trade affects our accounting of these emissions,” said Vilma Sandström, a doctoral student at the University of Helsinki, who created the study for the IIASA Young Scientists Summer Program.
The study is useful for climate-conscious consumers who want to make informed choices about their diets. “People tend to think that consuming locally will be the solution to climate change, but it turns out that the type of product we eat is much more important for the overall impact,” Hugo Valin, IIASA researcher and study co-author, said in a statement.
Valin continued, “Europeans are culturally attached to meat and dairy product consumption. Reducing our climate footprint does not necessarily require stopping eating these food products, but rather diversifying further our diets to reduce the share of these.”
The study adds to the growing bank of research outlining the detrimental impact of meat and dairy on the planet. The United Nations recently said that meat is “the world’s most urgent problem.” And following the largest ever food production analysis, Oxford researchers commented that going vegan is the “single biggest way” to reduce one’s impact on the planet, not just because of greenhouse gas emissions, but also considering global acidification, eutrophication, water use, and land use.
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