Take a Bite Out of Climate Change: Choose Plant-Based Foods

04/26/2017 04:21 pm ET Updated May 03, 2017

This weekend, hundreds of thousands of people will join together in Washington, DC for the People’s Climate March, standing united behind the message that we must act now to protect our planet and to preserve crucial federal policies that have been put in place to help do just that. Thousands more people will rally in solidarity at sister marches nationwide.

While the March will be calling upon our federal leaders to implement policy changes, there’s something more immediate and tangible we the people can do right now that will have a lasting collective impact to guard against the threats of climate change.

Research and scientific consensus is clear: raising animals for food is a leading cause of pollution and resource depletion. One of the single most important actions each of us can take to reduce our environmental impact is to choose plant-based foods.

For example, did you know it takes 420 gallons of water to produce just one pound of grain-fed chicken? And the amount of manure produced on factory farms is three times greater than the amount of waste produced by humans?

According to the United Nations, “livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems” noting that the animal agriculture sector produces an estimated 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Some reports suggest that the UN is underestimating animal agriculture’s role in GHG emissions, stating this number is closer to 51%.

The German Institute for Ecological Economy Research reports even if all animal agriculture operations were optimized to reduce their effects on the environment, the ideal dietary approach for the environment would still be to reduce overall meat consumption.

Another study published in Environmental Research Letters warns that to avoid the worst consequences of future climate change, meat-eaters should cut their consumption by 50%.

And yet, the herbivorous elephant in the room is largely ignored in discussions about our dietary choices and how we can help fight global warming with our forks.

The tide, however, might be turning as more people are recognizing the environmental benefits of vegan eating, including Al Gore and Ed Begley, Jr.

Even the United Nations has declared that “A substantial reduction of impacts [from agriculture] would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change away from animal products.”

Without a doubt, our food choices matter. Every time we sit down to eat, each of us can stand up for the planet, our health, and animals simply by choosing plant-based foods. That’s the message being shared this weekend by the Plant-Powered Planet Protectors coalition at the Climate March. In the words of the March organizers: “To change everything, we need everyone.”

Compassion Over Killing

Erica Meier is the executive director of Compassion Over Killing. Follow her on twitter: @EricaMeier

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