Here's how eating vegetables helps the environment

Turning vegetarian could help the environment a lot more than you think [Photo: Getty]

The effects of eating meat can hardly be described as positive. Not only does too much meat put you at a higher risk of cancer and heart disease, it’s also terrible for the environment.

But why is this?

Around 17% of the global calorific intake comes from meat. That meat requires a lot of livestock who are responsible for between 8% and 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Shockingly, that’s almost the same amount of pollution that comes from all of the world’s cars.

Animals such as cows and sheep are the worst offenders for greenhouse gases. When digesting tough plants, their stomach bacteria causes a huge amount of gas – specifically methane – to be let out.

Methane is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide and it is estimated that meat-producing livestock release 100 million tonnes of it every single year.

If you’re bothered about the effect your diet is having on the environment, there is something you can do.

A simple reduction in the amount of meat you’re eating can make a significant change to our future planet.

A recent study worked out the advantages of low-meat and no-meat diets using computer models that predicted the environmental effects all the way through to 2050.

A low-meat diet consisting of five portions of fruit and vegetables and up to 43g of red meat a day would only increase global greenhouse gas emissions by 7%. That’s much better than the 51% that is currently being predicted.

Cows and sheep produce greenhouse gases that are detrimental to the planet [Photo: iStock]

Switching to a vegetarian diet could cut emissions by up to two thirds, according to the same study. And a change to veganism is predicted to reduce them by 70%.

There are also major health benefits. Over 5 million deaths could be averted if less meat was eaten worldwide. If more people switched to eating only vegetables, that figure could rise to over 7 million.

With global meat consumption set to increase by more than 75% by 2050, a worldwide onset of vegetarianism looks pretty unlikely.

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