How Being Vegan Helps the Environment

September 6th 2015

The recent news regarding climate change hasn’t been very encouraging: In August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that July 2015 was the hottest month in Earth’s recorded history (with 2015 projected to be the hottest year ever). Another study confirmed that climate change is exacerbating California’s drought by as much as 20 percent, and wildfires continue to ravage forests along the West Coast, releasing even more carbon into the atmosphere.


It’s easy for the average person to feel pretty powerless in light of these daunting circumstances. However, there are certainly ways that individuals and households can adapt to the new climate reality. The biggest source of carbon emissions (meat) may just point the way toward the most beneficial lifestyle change one can make to deal with climate change: eating vegan. Normatively that’s very unlikely, but people still have a lot to gain by going as vegan as possible.

Climate change is making the traditional Western diet more expensive.

Natural inputs needed to fuel the livestock industry—namely water, grain, and pasture—are becoming more scarce and expensive due to drought and other climate change-induced effects. This is driving up the price of all meats, and aforementioned climate forecasts indicate there's no reason to expect that trend to end. Additionally, there’s a risk that climate change could promote the spread of animal diseases among livestock, which could further elevate the cost of animal products in a manner similar to how egg prices are currently being pushed upwards by outbreaks of avian flu.

Climate change will aggravate health problems and costs.

Climate change is going to exacerbate health problems and costs (particularly for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases) for many people, but one way to keep individual health care costs down is by adopting a diet which precludes the likelihood of developing heart disease—currently the top killer in the U.S. The American Heart Association projects that the cost of treating heart disease will increase to $818 billion by 2030; triple what it cost in 2010. British think tank Chatham House emphasized in a climate report last year that reducing consumption of meat and dairy products will also alleviate incidences of diabetes and some forms of cancer.

Eating vegan is getting cheaper.

Eating vegan isn't expensive anymore compared to an omnivore diet. There are many plant-based substitutes for meat and dairy on the market, which are comparably priced to their "real" counterparts, and they taste great. Real animal products also have costs that aren't reflected in the sticker price. Savings realized from cheap meat prices, whether from the grocery store or fast food, are effectively canceled out by the cost of lost productivity and health care required to treat the effects of such diets later in life. Heavy meat eaters are practically subsidizing the health care industry at personal expense. The economic shocks brought by increasingly expensive animal products and associated health expenses can be mitigated at the household level by adapting to a vegan diet in the present.

Vegans have an immensely reduced carbon footprint.

By giving veganism a try, a person is not only adopting a thriftier lifestyle with immediate economic and health benefits, they're also reducing their personal environmental footprint immensely: a person who is vegan will save 1,100 gallons of water, 20 pounds of CO2 equivalent, 30 square feet of forested land, 45 pounds of grain, and one animal's life every day.

Healthier, wealthier, greener.

While the world's corporations and governments have struggled for decades to agree on how to reduce emissions, regular folks don't have to wait any longer for top-down climate policy. Instead, by going vegan, they can make an adaptive investment in their personal health and finances, while helping the planet in the process. For those willing to make this and other changes (such as using solar energy and reusing greywater), the stress of climate change could not be so bad.

Share your opinion

Would you consider going vegan to help the environment?

No 22%Yes 78%