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Food for thought: vegan for the environment?


Happy earth day! Looking for ways you can help our environment? I bet you’ve heard things like “take short showers” ,”change your light bulbs,”buy low flow shower heads”,and “fix leaky sprinklers”. Obviously, we needing some sort of behavior change. But what if I told you that the change in behavior we need to see, is change in diet?

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We rely on our planet to survive.  More and more people are realizing this, and expressing their concerns. Many of us are looking up to the top environmental agencies, having faith that they’re focusing on core issues. We listen to their advice on “what you can do”. But there’s one big thing that they’re avoiding which is what I’m about to tell you about.


Major organizations aren’t mentioning the single leading industry that is destroying our planet more than any other…animal agriculture.

Let’s take a look at the top issues championed by environmental agencies and many environmentalists and see how they’re foolishly ignoring the elephant in the room.


1) Climate Change:


Environmental organizations focus on fossil fuels as the big bad baddy of climate change encouraging people to use energy efficient light bulbs, buy some solar panels,  drive a hybrid, or bike to work. While fossil fuels are a contributor to climate change, animal agriculture is responsible for.. let’s just say a whole awful lot. Let’s hear what Dr. Richard Oppenlander an environmental researcher and author of “Comfortably Unaware”, has to say about this.


“So my calculations are that without using any gas, or oil, or fuel, ever again, from this day forward, that we would still exceed our maximum carbon equivalent greenhouse gas emissions, 565 gigatons by the year 2030 without the electricity sector even factoring in the equation all simply by eating raising and eating livestock.”

So not using fossil fuels at all, which would be the wet dream of every environmental agency, we’re still gassing out the planet with the one contributor–the main contributor–which they refuse to even address.

Environmental agencies are telling us to use public transportation or bike places yet  animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.[1] Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.[1][2][3][4] As mentioned, even without fossil fuels, we will exceed our 565 gigatonnes CO2e limit by 2030, all from raising animals.[5]

The focus is always almost exclusively on carbon dioxide but methane is 25-100 times more destructive than carbon dioxide [6] and has 86 times the global warming power. [7] Plus, reducing methane emissions would create tangible benefits almost immediately. Not to mention, livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years.[8]
I’m not going to bore you with any more crazy numers so let’s relate this to our daily lives. Your average car produces 3-12 kg/day of carbon dioxide. [9][10] To clear rain forest to produce beef for one hamburger produces 75 kg of carbon dioxide.[9] Eating one pound of hamburger does the same damage as driving your car for more than three weeks. [9]

But is animal agriculture ever mentioned by any of the top environmental organizations or environmentalists in relation to global warming? Nope. They focus on alternative energy when converting to wind and solar power will take 20-plus years and roughly 43 trillion dollars, [11][12] and going vegan takes seconds and can be even cheaper [13] than being non-vegan.

2) Water Conservation

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Environmental agencies, and much of society is telling us: “don’t water your lawn”, “fix leaky faucets”, “take short showers”, and many other insignificant actions. Here’s what Kip Anderson ,the creator of the film Cowspiracy discovered:

“I found out that 1 quarter pound hamburger requires over 660 gallons of water to produce. Here I’ve been taking these short showers trying to save water, and to find out that just eating one hamburger is equivalent to showering two entire months. So much attention is given to lowering our home water use yet domestic water use is only 5% of what is consumed in the U.S. versus 55% for animal agriculture. That’s because it takes upwards of 2500 gallons of water to produce just 1 pound of beef. I went on the government’s department of water resources, saveourwater campaign, where it outlines behavior changes to help conserve our water, like using low flow shower heads, efficient toilets, water saving appliances and fixing leaky faucets and sprinkler heads, but nothing about animal agriculture. When I added up all the government’s recommendations, I was saving 47 gallons of water a day. But still, that’s not even close to the 660 gallons of water for just one burger. I wanted to see how I could somehow talk to the government about this.”

Pretty crazy, right??

Here’s a quick summary of the water footprint of foods:

2,500 gallons of water =1 pound of beef. (conservative number, can reach 8000 gallons!)[14][15][16][17][18]

1,000 gallons of water = 1 gallon of milk [20][21]

900 gallons of water =1lb. of cheese [22]

518 gallons of water= 1 pound of chicken meat[23][24]

634 gallons of water= a dozen eggs (53 gallons or water/egg)[25]

109 gallons of water= 1 stick of butter[26]

90 gallons of water= 6oz greek yogurt [26]

A loaf of bread = 288 gallons[25]

1lb beans=43 gallons of water[28]

A pound of lettuce = 30 gallons[25]

As Kip Anderson mentions in “ Cowspiracy” if you add up the government’s recommendations from save our water campaign, you can save 47 gallons of water a day which adds up to 17,155 gallons a year. Wow that’s a lot of water. But since someone following a vegan diet saves 1100 gallons of water a day[26], you’d be saving 33,000 gallons of water in one month which is almost 16,000 gallons of water more than someone just following the government’s recommendations in an entire year.

Following a vegan diet basically blows every water conservation recommendation from basically every environmental agency.

3) Fracking (no, I did not just curse)

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Fracking, the slang term for hydraulic fracturing,  refers to the procedure of creating fractures in rocks by injecting fluid into cracks to force them further open. The larger openings allow more oil and gas to flow out of the formation and into the well bore, from where it can be extracted. Fracking  the new golden child of  leading environmental organizations. “Fracking is destroying the planet!”,”It’s polluting the waters!”

After all its water use ranges from 70-140 billion gallons annually.[29] But animal agriculture?

That’s 34-76 trillion gallons or water annually. [30][31]

Taking into account the exponential difference between a billion and a trillion, animal agriculture in the united states consumes anywhere from 486 to over 1,000 times  more water than fracking, the “largest threat to water” according to environmentalists.

4) Waste Management

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Environmental agencies focus on industrial waste and the disposal and sanitation of human waste, while yet again, animal agriculture is the real monster. Yeah, when there’s tons of animals, there’s tons of poop. Literally.

In fact, every minute, 7 million pounds of excrement are produced by animals raised for food in the US.[32][33][34]  This doesn’t include the animals raised outside of USDA jurisdiction or in backyards, or the billions of fish raised in aquaculture settings in the US. [35][36][37]

“I wonder why they’re not address this fecal issue!!”.. Perhaps because they themselves are full of…moving on.


5) Ocean Dead Zones & Over fishing

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Our oceans are in near collapse. What’s going on in our oceans (A.K.A. 71% Earth’s surface) is one of the worst human-created environmental devastation.

We could see fish less oceans by 2048.[38][39] Yeah, it’s about time you ditch the seafood. “Pescitarian” doesn’t cut it.

As many as 2.7 trillion animals are pulled from the ocean each year.[40][41] And for every 1 pound of fish caught, up to 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill.[42]

As many as 40% (63 billion pounds) of fish caught globally every year are discarded.[43][44] The fish aren’t getting enough time to recover. They simply can’t multiply that quickly.

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of ocean dead-zones.[45][46][47][48][49]with livestock operations on land having created more than 500 nitrogen-flooded dead zones around the world in our oceans. [50][51]

And what’s the suggestion of the major ocean protection organizations? Sustainable fishing [52] which basically just makes consumers feel better about destroying the ocean, while there’s no way to make 100 million tons of fish by 2050 sustainable, especially given the 5 pounds of by-catch for every one pound of fish.

Founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Captain Wastson likes to say, “If the oceans die, we die.” That’s not a tag line, that’s the truth.

6) Rain forest Destruction

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Our global rain forests are essentially the planet’s lungs. They breathe in C02 and exhale oxygen. 1-2 acres of rain forest is cleared every second[53][54][55][56] and the leading cause ( responsible for 91%)[57][58][59][60] is to raise animals and grow their feed crops.[61]

Up to 137 plant, animal and insect species are lost every day due to rain forest destruction.[62][63][64][65][66]

So much attention is given to the whopping 26 million acres of rain forest (10.8m hectares) that have been cleared for palm oil production,[67] yet 136 million acres of rain forest have been cleared for animal agriculture.[68][69]

It’s NOT Sustainable

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How do you ever think we’re going to be able to feed our global population when huge chunk of us are feeding our food?Though our global human population is 7.4 billion,[70] we are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people.[71][72][73] Yet almost 800 million people don’t have enough food to lead a healthy and active life,[74] and 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, which are then eaten by western countries.[75][76][77][78]

It’s simply not fair.

I know that changes in diet are hard and can seem like a huge change, but we must take action. It’s no longer about personal preference and convenience. The Earth cannot sustain our current eating habits.

You see, every day, someone following a vegan diet saves: 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, and 20 lbs CO2 equivalent.[79][80][81][82][83]

In other words, a person who follows a vegan diet produces the equivalent of 50% less carbon dioxide, uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-lover, for their food.[84][85][86][87][88][89]

I hope this helped you see things from a new perspective. It’s time to get real. Let’s start living sustainably.

After all, Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, not every man’s greed.



[2]Goodland, R Anhang, J. “Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change were pigs, chickens and cows?”

[3]WorldWatch, November/December 2009. Worldwatch Institute, Washington, DC, USA. Pp. 10–19.

[4]Animal Feed Science and Technology “comment to editor” Goodland, Anhang.

[5]Oppenlander, Richard A. Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work. . Minneapolis, MN : Langdon Street, 2013. Print.

Source: calculation is based on analyses that 51% of GHG are attributed to animal ag. The Independent, article Nov. 2009.

[6] Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions by Drew T. Shindell*, Greg

Faluvegi, Dorothy M. Koch, Gavin A. Schmidt, Nadine Unger, Susanne E. Bauer

[7] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis.” Working Group I.

[8]“Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006.

[9][How Our Food Choices can Help Save the Environment by Steve Boyan, PhD

[10] Average Annual Emissions & Fuel Consumption for Gasoline-Fueled Passenger Cars and Light Trucks by the EPA

[11] Infographic: How Much it Would Cost for the Entire Planet to Switch to Renewable Energy by Elliot Chang

[12]The Cost of Going Green Globally by Anne Perkins

[13] Eating Vegan On $4 A Day

Oxford Journals. “Water Resources: Agricultural and Environmental Issues”

[14]The World’s Water. “Water Content of Things”

[15]Journal of Animal Science. “Estimation of the water requirement for beef production in the United States.”

[16]Robbins, John. “2,500 Gallons, All Wet?” EarthSave

[17]Meateater’s Guide to Climate Change & Health.” Environmental Working Group.

[18]“Water Footprint Assessment.” University of Twente, the Netherlands.

[19]Oppenlander, Richard A. Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work. Minneapolis, MN: Langdon Street, 2013. Print

[20]Water Footprint Network, “Product Water Footprints”.

[21]A Global Assessment of the Water Footprint of Farm Animal Products, WFN.

[22]“Meateater’s Guide to Climate Change & Health.” Environmental Working Group.

[23]Mekonnen, M.M. and Hoekstra, A.Y. (2012) A global assessment of the water footprint of farm animal products, Ecosystems, 15(3): 401-415.

[24]Mekonnen, M.M. and Hoekstra, A.Y. (2010) The green, blue and grey water footprint of farm animals and animal products, Value of Water Research Report Series No.48, UNESCO-IHE.


[26] It Takes HOW Much Water to Make Greek Yogurt?! Dairy products require a whole lot of water—and many of them come from drought-ridden California. By Julia Lurie and Alex Park in Mother Jones but with academic citations

[27]“Water Footprint Assessment.” University of Twente, the Netherlands.

[28]accessed 4/15/16 from:

[29]“Draft Plan to Study the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources.” EPA Office of Research and Development. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2011.

[30]Pimentel, David, et al. “Water Resources: Agricultural And Environmental Issues.” BioScience 54, no. 10 (2004): 909-18.

[31] Barber, N.L., “Summary of estimated water use in the United States in 2005: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2009–3098.”


[32]“What’s the Problem?” United States Environmental Protection Agency.

[33]Agricultural Waste Management Field Handbook, USDA

[34]335 million tons of “dry matter” is produced annually by livestock in the US.“FY-2005 Annual Report Manure and Byproduct Utilization National Program 206.” USDA Agricultural Research Service. 2008.

[35]“What’s the Problem?” United States Environmental Protection Agency.

[36] “How To Manage Manure.” Healthy Landscapes.

[37]“FY-2005 Annual Report Manure and Byproduct Utilization National Program 206.

[38]Science, “Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services”.

[39]National Geographic, article Nov. 2006

[40]A Mood and P Brooke, July 2010, “Estimating the Number of Fish Caught in Global Fishing Each Year”.

[41]Montaigne, fen. “Still waters: The global fish crisis.” National Geographic.

[42]“Discards and Bycatch in Shrimp Trawl Fisheries.” UNITED NATIONS FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION (FAO).

[43]Wasted Catch: Unsolved Problems in U.S. Fisheries

[44]Goldenberg, Suzanne. “America’s Nine Most Wasteful Fisheries Named.” The Guardian.

[45]Osterman, L.E., Poore, R.Z., Swarzenski, P.W., 2008, Gulf of Mexico dead zone–1000 year record: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008-1099,

[46]NOAA, “What is a dead zone“.

[47]Scientific America, “What Causes Ocean “Dead Zones“?”.

[48] Comfortably Unaware by Richard Oppenheimer

[49]“Fire Up the Grill for a Mouthwatering Red, White, and Green July 4th.” Worldwatch Institute.

[50]Oppenlander, Richard A. Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work. . Minneapolis, MN : Langdon Street, 2013. Print.


[52]Oceana Living Blue Suggestions

[53]“Avoiding Unsustainable Rainforest Wood.” Rainforest Relief.

[54]Facts about the rainforest.

[55]Rainforest facts.

[56]World Resources Institute, “Keeping Options Alive”.

[57]World Bank. “Causes of Deforestation of theBrazilian Amazon”

[58]Margulis, Sergio. Causes of Deforestation of the Brazilian Rainforest. Washington: World Bank Publications, 2003.


[60]Oppenlander, Richard A. Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work. . Minneapolis, MN : Langdon Street, 2013. Print.

[61]“Livestock impacts on the environment.” Food and agriculture organization of the United Nations (fao). 2006.

[62]“Rainforest statistics and facts.” Save the amazon.

[63]RAN, Fact Page.

[64]Tropical Rain Forest Information Center, NASA Earth Science Information Partner

[65]Monga Bay, “What is Deforestation?”.

[66]150-200 species per day are lost per day, The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity

[67]“Indonesia: palm oil expansion unaffected by forest moratorium.” USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. 2013.


[69]214,000 square miles occupied by cattle (136 million acres):


[71]Common Dreams, “We Already Grow Enough Food for 10 Billion People… and Still Can’t End Hunger”.

[72]Cornell Chronicle, “U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat, Cornell ecologist advises animal scientists”.

[73]IOP Science, Redefining agricultural yields: from tonnes to people nourished per hectare



[76]80% of the worlds starving children live in 14 countries. (figure 5)

[77]Livestock production country list

[78]Livestock global mapping

[79]“Water Footprint Assessment.” University of Twente, the Netherlands.

[80]“Measuring the daily destruction of the world’s rainforests.” Scientific American, 2009.

[81]“Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK.” Climactic change, 2014.

[82]“Meat eater’s guide to climate change and health.” The Environmental Working Group.

[83]Oppenlander, Richard A. Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work. Minneapolis, MN : Langdon Street, 2013. Print.

[84]CO2:  “The Carbon Footprint of 5 Diets Compared.” Shrink The Footprint.

[85]“Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK.” Climactic change, 2014.

[86]Oil, water: “Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003.

[87]One Green Planet, “Meat The Truth”.

[88]Robbins, John. “Food Revolution”. Conari Press, 2001

[89]Land [xvii]: “Our food our future.” Earthsave.

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