Do You Have to Be Vegan to Be Sustainable?
The short answer is no. The longer answer is that with mindful habits—and more plant-based choices—any diet can be sustainable.
In an age of climate consciousness, some eco-minded individuals have developed a penchant for veganism. Entirely plant-based—think no gelatins, milk, or egg products—veganism is a popular dieting choice for animal lovers and health advocates alike. But when it comes to eco-friendliness, do you have to be vegan to be sustainable?
The short answer is no. The longer answer is that with the proper knowledge and commitment, any diet can be sustainable.
Although veganism and plant-based options reign supreme, these are not the only routes to eating green. With enough dedication and awareness, omnivorous diets can remain environmentally sound—and healthy, too.
The Environmental Benefits of Veganism
We won't lie—there are some major environmental upsides to making more plant-based choices.
The process of raising livestock is responsible for 57% of all food production emissions. On the contrary, plant-based foods are responsible for only 29% of emissions, making for a significantly smaller environmental footprint.
As for process intensity, growing food requires less land and less water than raising livestock. Thus, deforestation is no longer in high demand, sparing soil fertility, increasing water quality, and preserving forested ecosystems otherwise destroyed for raising livestock.
According to The Nature Conservancy, animal waste, hormones, antibiotics, fertilizers, and pesticides are leading causes of water pollution that affect both human health and clean farming. As long as the produce is grown organically, these synthetic materials are no longer present, protecting local waterways from harmful pollutants.
Even making small moves to up your plant intake benefits the planet. Additionally, these three simple steps will help to ensure that you're keeping your impact in mind regardless of what's on your plate.
How to Eat Sustainably Regardless of Your Diet
1. Buy Local
When it comes to mindful eating, it's all about where your food comes from. Buying locally-grown produce and locally-raised meat ensure the quality, freshness, and sustainability of your product. Purchasing from farms in your area eliminates the need for food transportation, eradicating the emissions associated with travel and doing away with excessive packaging.
Local produce also tends to be grown more planet-friendly—you know exactly what you’re buying and how it was grown. The same goes for livestock. Cows and chickens that are raised on small-scale, local farms tend to be free of hormones and from unnecessary cruelty, satisfying health and ethical requirements.
2. Buy Organic
When purchasing produce or meat from a grocery store, check the label to ensure that it is “Certified Organic.” Not only is organically grown food better for your health—it’s better for the planet, too.
Produce that is grown organically has been cultivated without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, both of which lead to soil degradation, environmental sickness, and the pollution of nearby waterways.
Organic meats are just as beneficial—and far more humane. Livestock that is raised organically tends to live out a life that's closer to nature, producing less emissions from unnatural feed. These meats are also healthier, as they lack the hormones and other synthetic substances used to encourage unnatural growth.
Purchasing organic produce ensures support for sustainable farming practices and establishes eco-friendly habits. Although more expensive, the quality of the organic items makes it well worth the price.
3. Grow Your Own
Both cost-effective and organic, growing your own food is the most accessible way to adopt a plant-heavy diet. With enough land and fertile soil, individuals and families can supply their own food right from their backyard.
Growing your own food is the most sustainable form of organic farming and is also a leading catalyst for composting, another easy and accessible route toward a more sustainable kitchen.
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