Don’t worry – this isn’t another installment in the never-ending “debate” between vegans and omnivores. Personally I don’t care what you eat (so long as it isn’t other people).
Now that disclaimer is out of the way, here’s the good news: you can reduce your carbon footprint, support a sustainable environment AND still be able to eat cheese.
Research published last year indicated that while an overall reduction in animal products increases sustainability, completely cutting out all meat and animal by-products actually reduces sustainability.
The study, published in science journal Elementa, used biophysical simulation models to see how well 10 different diets sustained humans based off our existing farmland.
So what are the best diets for sustaining populations and making use of existing farmland?
Dairy-friendly Vegetarian (able to feed 807 million people)
Egg and dairy-friendly Vegetarian (able to feed 787 million people)
Omnivorous 20% (able to feed 769 million people)
Omnivorous 40% (able to feed 752 million people)
Veganism came fifth in the study, sustaining 72 million less people than a lacto-vegetarian diet. The reason veganism did not top the rankings is due to the variety of farmlands available globally. Not all land available for farming can be used for crops, but may be used for grazing livestock or cultivating feed (grain, hay etc.) for livestock.
To be fair to veganism, however, it did a lot better in the study than the more omnivorous diets, or even the typical U.S. diet (which was modelled to feed only a measly 402 million people).
Possibly the most important finding to take away from this research however is that switching to primarily plant-based diets makes a huge difference to ensuring food sustainability in years to come.
So swap your Big Mac for a veggie burger every now and then. The Earth will thank you for it.